Sunday, March 1, 2015

Random Ex-Brave: Brian Jordan

I'll make a pretty simple assessment. Deion Sanders was the better football player, but Brian Jordan was the better baseball player. Both played professionally in baseball and football, both were former Falcons, both were former Braves...but only Jordan has hit a postseason homer or a half-dozen of them. But Deion has a ring...so...winner?

Scott Cunningham | Getty Images Sport
Born in Baltimore in 1967, Jordan attended the University of Richmond where he was a dual sports star as a Spider. He was a better baseball player even then and the Cardinals made him the final pick of the 1988 draft's first round. The next April, the Bills selected Jordan in the seventh round, though he was cut before being picked up by the Falcons. He would go onto become a Pro Bowl alternate in his final season in the NFL, but gave up football after the Cardinals offered a new contract following the 1991 season. Ah, guaranteed money.

Shifting gears, before he gave up football, Jordan played sparingly after joining the Cardinals organization following the 1988 draft. But the Cardinals clearly were interested after just 61 games with their AAA roster in '91 to give him the new $1.7M bonus. From 1992-93, Jordan was yo-yoing between Springfield and St. Louis before another year as a back-up in 1994. Finally, at age-28, Jordan got an opportunity to play full-time and he belted 22 homers for the Cardinals. The following season was also solid before an injury-riddled 1997 year. Healthy again, Jordan returned with a massive 1998 season where, batting behind the roided up freakazoid Mark McGwire during Big Mac's 70-homer year, Jordan posted a .902 OPS with 34 2B's and 25 HR's.

It was a great time for Jordan to break through. He entered free agency and the Braves were looking to solidify right field after two years of Michael Tucker. Jordan received $40M for five years over the Braves. He immediately became an important fixture on the team after Andres Galarraga's cancer had returned. For nearly the entire season, he hit cleanup behind Chipper Jones and went to the All-Star Game for the only time. He memorably destroyed the Mets, hitting .359 against the primary rivals with seven extra base hits. Sure, Chipper was even more impressive in 1999 against the Metropolitans, but Jordan was still pretty good. However, Jordan's production would fall in 2000. He rebounded for a solid 2001, especially in the second half when he slashed .307/.339/.525 to help stave off challenges by the Phillies and Mets for the division title.

Jordan would struggle in the postseason that year and the Braves fell in five games to the eventual champions, the Diamondbacks. Atlanta only won 88 games in 2001 and their offense really struggled that season due to down years by nearly their entire lineup, outside of Chipper and Jordan. The Braves wanted to reshuffle things and packaged Odalis Perez with Jordan to acquire Gary Sheffield from the Dodgers. It was a no-brainer because Sheff was one of the greatest hitters in baseball, though many pondered how Sheff fit in the normally copacetic Braves clubhouse. Still, Sheff was a role model in Atlanta and outside of crapping the bed in the playoffs, Sheff was excellent as a Brave.

Meanwhile, Jordan headed to L.A. and was already 35 for the 2002 season. His power numbers fell before an injury-shortened 2003 sent the rapidly aging outfielder into free agency without much hope for a big deal. He landed in Texas for a year, but struggled there.

That may have been it, but the Braves came calling about a reunion. The Braves were trying to flank Andruw Jones with some veterans while their prospects developed in the minors. That led them to make the ultra-frustrating move to sign Raul Mondesi and Jordan for the 2005 season. Ugh, nightmares were a'plenty after seeing those two past-their-prime guys in the outfield. Jordan seemed like he was the better player, though he posted an almost identical OPS and overal, Jordan hit .247/.295/.338 for the season. Because we can't have nice things, Bobby Cox still started Jordan in Game One of the NLDS. He went 0-for-3 and grounded into a double play. He would fortunately head to the bench for the rest of the series, getting just two at-bats.

Jordan would return in 2006 for unknown reasons. Well, I guess they wanted an option to platoon at first (?) with Adam LaRoche, plus provide depth in case Matt Diaz bombed, but it was still confusing. Jordan would receive 101 plate appearances and the nearly 40 year-old mostly struggled as we might expect.

He retired after the season and has since embarked on an announcing career with the Braves, both working for the major league and AAA squads. Interesting fact: Of the three managers who were part of the 2014 Hall of Fame class, Jordan (I believe) is the only player to be managed by all three. He also played behind Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. He also played for the Falcons. That's Brian Jordan for ya. A man of interesting facts.

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