Orioles: Defending Koji...sort of
Obviously, there are a lot of fans wondering what the Orioles were thinking a couple of winters ago when they signed Koji Uehara to a two-year, $10 million contract, but you have to be fair when you're judging things in hindsight.
If you go back to that juncture in Andy MacPhail's rebuilding program, you'll remember that he was making an attempt to expand the Orioles modest international scouting efforts and make an inroad in the Asian talent market. I don't think anybody thinks that part of the equation was a bad idea.
There were two premier Japanese pitchers on the American market that winter, Koji and Kenshin Kawakami, who were being courted by a number of major league teams because of the success they had in Japan.
The Orioles went for Koji and the Atlanta Braves signed Kawakami, and -- frankly -- neither team is too happy about that now. Koji has pitched well when he's been able to pitch, which is almost never, and Kawakami is a combined 7-18 with a 4.10 ERA since coming to America and has also been injury prone.
There's no question now that neither move was a great idea in retrospect, but the O's were under pressure to find talent anywhere they could find it and there was no way of knowing that Koji would have all the problems that have kept him off the mound. The O's knew he grappled with hamstring issues, but that has been just a fraction of the problem. Uehara now is arm-sore again -- he'll be re-examined tomorrow -- and probably will be put on the shelf for another extended period.
He's not a total loss for the Orioles, but he's close, because the 19 appearances he has made -- some of them very good -- were not enough to offset his lack of dependability either as a starter or reliever.
It's regrettable for the organization, but not an unforgivable front office mistake. In this case, as in Kawakami and some of the other highly touted Japanese imports, you win some and you lose some.