Toughness is overrated. Or let me rephrase that. The illusion of toughness is overrated. Someone who deals with adversity and the trials of life with an inner and physical strength is a real form of toughness. Doing superficial things to show toughness that could easily be avoidable makes me roll my eyes.
A child running to safety in Syria is tougher than the average biker peeling out.
One aspect of superficial toughness that we can do away with is equating how many pitches a pitcher throws with their internal strength. While pitch counts has sometime been an artificial and annoying metric of how long a pitcher can go, the opposite end of the spectrum is no less annoying. When a coach puts a pitcher out there for much longer than they have any business pitching, that is appealing to a pitcher’s sense of toughness. It is also a form of abuse.
Case in point in Jimmy Jones. Long before he became a first round pick by the Padres, he played in a high school tournament for Thomas Jefferson High School, his Dallas team. His coach had him throw 251 pitches in a 16 inning game. Jones struck out 28 batters along the way and that got him some attention but stop and really think about that for a second.
A high school coach basically threatened the future of his player. For what? A high school game?
Later Jones said his arm was so tired he couldn’t throw a ball from third to first. I wonder why. He only threw 100 more pitches than an adult major leaguer should ever throw.
Was it to show how tough he is? No doubt the coach asked him if he could still pitch. And no doubt Jimmy Jones, a teenager, wanted to show how tough he was and finish the game.
I have no clue what the coach’s name was. He was a supreme asshole. Can you imagine if Jimmy had his arm hurt? He would have been the bitter guy in town who could have been something.
If this happened today, the coach would have been fired.
As it turned out, Jones was picked third overall by the Padres (and ahead of Dwight Gooden) in 1982. He made quite a first impression in the majors, throwing a 1 hit shutout in his big league debut on September 21, 1986, beating the eventual NL West champion Houston Astros.
Jones showed some promise in 1987 and 1988 with San Diego. Before the 1989 season, he was involved in a deal that appeared to take place in Bizarro world. The Padres were spending big and wanted to win right away. The Yankees looked at their team and realized they weren’t any good and needed to deal a veteran for prospects.
So Jimmy Jones, along with pitcher Lance McCullers and outfielder Stan Jefferson were sent packing to the Yankees for Jack Clark. This traded series card reflected his arrival in the Bronx.
The early promise from San Diego did not translate to New York. Jones went back and forth between Columbus and New York, not faring well on the big league squad. By 1991 he found himself in Houston, winning a career high 10 games in 1992. But after a quick stint with the Expos in 1993 and spending 1994 and 1995 in Japan, his career was over.
After his career was done, he became a coach in the Padres organization. Jones also was a high school coach in Flower Mound Texas for a few years. I am guessing he never forced a pitcher to throw 250 pitches in a game.