John Swart/Associated Press
Having an up-close look at what Michael Jordan could do on the baseball field, Terry Francona believes the Basketball Hall of Famer would have made it to the Major League Baseball if he stuck with the sport.
Speaking to Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter, the Cleveland Indians manager said Jordan would have earned a roster spot in the big leagues within three years of making his debut in the minors (starting at the 5:39 mark).
This echoes what Francona, who managed Jordan with the Birmingham Barons in 1994, said on The Last Dance about Jordan being good enough to make it to the majors if he had another 1,000 at-bats in the minor leagues.
Jordan’s brief professional baseball career was initially seen as a failure, but recent reexaminations show how impressive his accomplishment in the sport was.
Here’s what Michael Baumann of The Ringer wrote about Jordan’s baseball career:
“Well, despite all those disadvantages, and despite having a swing that looks like Charles Barkley swatting at a mosquito with a five-iron, Jordan still went into Double-A cold and hit .202. By the time he got to the Arizona Fall League that year, he was starting to blend in and look more comfortable. The problems Jordan faced were technique-based, bad habits that could at least theoretically be trained out of him.”
After signing a contract with the Chicago White Sox in February 1994 and being assigned to their Double-A affiliate to start the season, Jordan hit .202/.289/.266 in 436 at-bats with three home runs, 51 RBI and 30 stolen bases over 127 games. The 6’6″ outfielder was 31 years old and hadn’t played organized baseball since his senior year at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Unfortunately for MLB, though, Jordan decided to return to the Chicago Bulls in March 1995. It turned out to be a wise decision since he won three more NBA championships and further cemented his legacy as arguably the best NBA player in history.