Well to quibble and parse words and whatnot: he can’t make key defensive plays at any point, I mean the ball has to be hit to him or an infielder has to throw a difficult ball to him – otherwise his job at first base is pretty pedestrian by defensive standards.
Still, Jordan had a reputation as a great defensive player. In fact, his .988 career fielding percentage is tied for 28th best with people like Freddy Lynn, Mike Devareaux, Paul O’Neil, the great Paul Blair, Tim Raines, Andy Van Slyke, Jay Buhner, Steve Finley and others. There’s a fair number of Orioles on that list – Raines and Buhner are the only ones who never played for Baltimore. And guess where Jordan was born? You got it: Baltimore.
Do the defensive metrics back up his fielding percentage and reputation? Sort of. His dWAR (defensive wins above replacement player) is 16.1, oddly enough most of his value came as a right fielder. What’s most misleading about this card is that Jordan played just 27 games at first in his career and played 1,382 games in the outfield. I always remembered Jordan as an outfielder but, based on this card, assumed he was an ill-suited first baseman – shows you can’t believe everything you read.
Jordan was quite the underrated player. From 1995-2002, he accumulated 30.8 WAR (Fangraphs), the 35th most during that span and just a few ticks behind the immortal Frank Thomas. During that stretch, he hit .291/.341/.473 and averaged 18 HRs, yet made an All-star team just once.
Jordan’s last season was the year this card was printed. He didn’t exactly go out on top. Still, I’ll always remember him as the foil to Deion Sanders. Sanders was the flashy one who was better at football than baseball. Jordan always seemed rather workmanlike and was clearly better at baseball than football. Either way, he fielded his position well, hit decently and was one of the better players for a seven-year stretch – not much more you can ask for from a career.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the butchering of the English language. First, Jordan wasn’t really a first baseman. Second, “has prospered in the major leagues as the productive offensive…” just makes no sense. How about: “has prospered in the major leagues a productive offensive…” Third, the whole end of the sentence is Goobeldy Gook. This is up there with the all time greats when it comes to poorly written back of the base ball cards. It really should have been part of the 1987 Topps set.