Since there have been several posts over the past few days questioning the logic of pursuing a thirtysomething Japanese pitcher during a rebuilding period, let me try to clarify the situation. The Orioles need to fill four slots in the starting rotation and -- if you were paying attention in August and September -- clearly need more pitching depth to get through the season than they presently have in development.
That is going to require some stop-gap players, who don't necessarily fit into the long-term schematic but might prevent the 2009 season from being a complete embarrassment.
There is an additional rationale for pursuing a pitcher such as Kenshin Kawakami. Though he might be no better than a No. 4 starter for two or three years, he fills one of those holes and also puts Baltimore on the map for future players coming from Asia. He's no Daisuke Matsuzaka, but the Orioles have to start somewhere and right now they are basically invisible in the Far East.
Listen, I'll jump right in with the rest of the naysayers if Andy MacPhail's plan still looks like this in a year or two, but I find it troubling that a lot of disgruntled O's fans are ready to call him a failure after just 18 months. Did you really think that a player development system could be overhauled in a year and a half?
Frankly, and I know I'm going to offend some of you, if you're calling him McFail after 18 months, then you deserve an organization that starts a new five-year plan every two years under pressure from its fans. I experienced this kind of mentality as a fan and then a baseball writer in Anaheim, and it only took the Angels 42 years to get to the World Series. Not sure I want to wait that long again.