Giants

Michael Jordan's baseball career hurt by two factors, Mike Krukow says

Michael Jordan's baseball career hurt by two factors, Mike Krukow says

When Michael Jordan announced he was going to play baseball in 1994, Mike Krukow had the same reaction as everyone else. 

When he said I wanna play baseball, I was like 'What?!'" Krukow said Monday morning on KNBR's "Murph & Mac" show.

Jordan's first and only season playing Double-A baseball for the Birmingham Barons was Krukow's first as a full-time broadcaster for the Giants. Krukow was only five years removed from his last season in San Francisco and knew exactly what would hinder Jordan the most on the field. 

It wasn't just his lack of experience or the fact that he hadn't played baseball in at least 14 years, dating back to high school. Actually, it was the star shooting guard's body. Jordan was built perfectly to dominate for the Chicago Bulls, not the Chicago White Sox. 

"He didn't have the body for baseball," Krukow said. "You look at him get in the batter's box and he was tall and had long arms and if you're pitching against a guy like that, you're gonna pound him in. He is not gonna see anything out over the plate where he can hurt ya. 

"I thought the challenge would be insurmountable just because of his body type." 

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Jordan is 6-foot-6 and weighed 216 pounds, perfect to defend anybody on the hardwood and leap through the sky. His length could hurt him as a hitter in baseball, though. It wasn't easy for him to keep his elbows in and consistently have a short swing to the ball. 

Krukow believes that wasn't the only obstacle for Jordan as a hitter, too. 

"When he got over to the White Sox, they immediately gave him a hitting coach who was an established hitting coach," Krukow said. "... I think they should have just left him alone to let him figure things out alone before they threw this extreme batting philosophy at him. I think that set him back.

"And really, I think that eventually took him down."

Jordan remarkably started his Double-A career with a 13-game hitting streak. And then pitchers began throwing him curveballs. He finished the year batting just .202 with a lowly .556 OPS and struck out 114 times in 127 games. 

[RELATED: How A's, Giambi error played role in MJ's baseball career]

Mike Barnett was Jordan's hitting coach in Birmingham and the two worked tirelessly together, but Krukow said the coach had an "unorthodox style" that didn't do MJ any favors. More than anything, the former Giants pitchers called Jordan a "great ambassador for the game" with how he treated teammates, coaches, field workers and those behind the scenes. 

Despite his reservations, Krukow gained a great deal of admiration for Jordan.

"I didn't think he really had a chance to make it to the big leagues because of how tall he was and how long his arms were, but my respect when up," Krukow said. "He left being the best guy in the world [at basketball] and he exposed himself to ridicule and criticism and he didn't care.

"He loved the game of baseball, and I always admired that about him." 

Why Giants' Gabe Kapler pulled Kevin Gausman after 80 pitches vs. Dodgers

Why Giants' Gabe Kapler pulled Kevin Gausman after 80 pitches vs. Dodgers

The Giants coaching staff spent weeks preparing for the opening series against the Dodgers, and while some of the pitching decisions looked strange at the time, there's no doubt that overall they worked. The Giants came out with a split, a great result for any team that visits Dodger Stadium these days. 

The second time through called for a bit more spontaneity, coming in the middle of a tough three-city trip. For the second straight night, a decision made when a starting pitcher was nearing the end of his leash backfired. This time it cost the Giants the game and a chance at a series win. 

On Saturday night, Johnny Cueto was allowed to extend to 93 pitches, but a three-run homer on his last one nearly proved costly. A day later, Kevin Gausman was pulled after just 80 pitches, and he watched from the dugout as Tyler Rogers gave up a three-run homer, blowing the lead in a game the Giants would go on to lose 6-2. 

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Gausman had an outstanding fastball going on an 82-degree afternoon, averaging 97 mph for the first time in four years and hitting 99 mph several times. His final pitch was his hardest of the day, a 99.3 mph heater that Cody Bellinger redirected into center field for a one-out single. Kapler came out and held up his right hand as he got to the mound. 

"I think it was just a hot day, seventh time up, third time through the toughest part of the order," Kapler said of the decision. "He had done a tremendous job. He had carried his stuff into that inning, he had carried his location into that inning, and it just felt like the right time to keep him healthy and strong and safe all the way through the season based on getting into the seventh for the first time. 

"At the same time we had a reliever ready who we felt confident could get us a groundball with a runner on first base and get us out of that inning."

Rogers gave up a single to Justin Turner and then struck out Max Muncy. He was on the verge of getting out of the inning, but he grooved a 3-2 curveball to A.J. Pollock and it sailed into the empty bleachers in left. 

Rogers had pitched two strong innings the night before, and the Giants feel he's someone who can bounce back. But the Dodgers were seeing Rogers for the fifth time in 17 days. Pollock had faced him a night earlier and flown out on a curveball. 

[RELATED: What you might've missed as Giants blow lead vs. Dodgers]

Kapler disagreed with the notion that the novelty had worn off when it came to the submariner. 

"I think it's not just novelty with Rog, it's the ability to throw strikes with two pitches that are unusual. It's an unusual look. He can attack the strike zone with those two pitches and they're actually just flat-out good pitches," Kapler said. "Pollock made a nice adjustment, got to two strikes and two outs, and he was able to elevate the ball."

The blast cost Gausman a win on a day when he became the first Giants starter to record a quality start this season. Gausman gave up just three hits in 6 1/3 innings and struck out six. He made a sour face as he came off the field and threw his gum, and said later that he would have liked an opportunity to finish the seventh. 

"I definitely felt like I had more in the tank. My limit is not 80 pitches, but Kap's job is to make those decisions. That's his job description," Gausman said. "I'm not the one that's calling down to the bullpen and getting guys loose, that type of thing. Obviously I thought I pitched well enough to warrant getting a couple more guys out, but we're trying to win the series and it's a hot day. Maybe those were factors in his decision."

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-2 loss vs. Dodgers

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-2 loss vs. Dodgers

BOX SCORE

Kevin Gausman had the best start of the year by a Giant, and one of the most dominant we've seen from any starter early on this season. But it wasn't enough for the Giants, who dropped a heartbreaker in the late innings and lost a series at Dodger Stadium.

Gausman was sitting in the upper 90s all afternoon but was pulled after just 80 pitches. He watched as Tyler Rogers gave up a three-run homer to A.J. Pollock and the Los Angeles Dodgers got another blast later from Mookie Betts, walking away with a 6-2 win. 

The Giants fell to 2-5 on this road trip with three games coming up against the Astros. Here are three things to know from one that truly hurt ... 

Made of quality

The bar to clear for a quality start -- six innings, three earned runs -- is not a high one, but the Giants had not had one through 16 games, which is pretty remarkable. Gausman sailed past that mark in his fourth appearance as a Giant, but took a brutal no-decision. The right-hander left with a 2-0 lead and a runner on first in the seventh. A few minutes later, the Giants trailed. 

What was so notable about Gausman is how he did it. He was throwing gas, hitting 99 mph three times -- including 99.3 on his final pitch -- and averaging 97 with his four-seamer. That was his best average fastball since 2016. The final pitch was his hardest since June 9, 2018.

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Maybe pump the brakes a little?

Rogers had a huge spring and was just as sharp in the second camp, but manager Gabe Kapler might be playing that card a bit too often. To be fair, Kapler doesn't have a lot of great bullpen options, but Rogers' appearance Sunday was his fifth against the Dodgers in 17 days, and even pitching two innings in Saturday's win.

At some point, that submarine delivery isn't as much of a surprise, and Pollock swung the score with a three-run shot on a hanging curveball. One pitch earlier, Pollock had walked a few steps toward first, thinking he had walked on an inside pitch. 

[RELATED: MadBum struggles again while Gausman shines for Giants]

Not slowing down

Mike Yastrzemski provided the offense, driving a two-run single into center off former Vanderbilt teammate Walker Buehler. Yastrzemski is eighth in the NL with 12 RBI, and one of the players he trails is a teammate, Donovan Solano (14).

Solano extended his hitting streak with a two-out single in the eighth inning. This was not a barrel for Donnie Barrels. He hit a slow roller to third with a launch angle of negative 46 degrees, exit velocity of 55 mph and hit probability of 17 percent, but it died on the grass and Solano easily beat Justin Turner's throw to first. 

The 14-game hitting streak is the longest by a Giant since Angel Pagan went 19 games in 2016. 

Those were the only two hits of the day for the Giants.