It was another solid day at the bar Tuesday.
My sister, an old neighbor and most of the regulars stopped by. We even had educated and sincere Steelers fans drop in – and, yes, that variety does exist.
I think one thing we learned is even if Ravens fans absolutely despise the Steelers, it's impossible not to respect their style of play and the franchise's tradition. The Steelers do it right, as painful as it may be to swallow for some Ravens fans.
That said, I am taking Rob's advice and moving off the Ravens' jinx factor today. I spent most of Tuesday – when I wasn't cleaning up the spills around the bar -- following the Orioles' signing of Koji Uehara, a 33-year-old, Japanese righty. He'll be the first Japan native to wear an Orioles uniform (Lenny Sakata, now a Japanese minor-league manager, was from Honolulu).
So you know what that means: Sapporo 2-for-1 specials all day. And someone get The Vapors' "Turning Japanese"on the jukebox (admittedly, we're short on Japanese-themed songs here at Connolly's).
Here's my take on Uehara: good signing because it contains little risk. He'll get $10 million over two years with the potential to make $16 million based on incentives. (In comparison, reliever Danys Baez got three years and $19 million from the Orioles in 2006.) Uehara is slated as the No. 2 starter right now, but who knows if he can hack that responsibility – especially in the American League East.
What we do know is he throws a ton of strikes and has been extremely effective on big stages in his career. He pitched for the most popular and successful team in Japan, he is 12-0 in international competition and he was 2-0 in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Whether it translates into big league success is anyone's guess, but if he really can't adjust as a starter he can always be moved into a middle relief or setup role.
He has succeeded as a closer in Japan with pinpoint control and a 91-mph fastball, so the absolute worst-case scenario is he's a mop-up guy in 2010 and then he's free to go.
In comparison, look at the New York Yankees' Kei Igawa and the disaster that turned out to be. The Yankees signed him to a five-year, $20 million deal in 2006 after paying a $26 million posting fee just to speak to him.
Igawa had a 6.25 ERA in 14 games in 2007 and couldn't make the transition to reliever. So he's getting roughly $4 million per year – through 2011 – to pitch in the minors. The Yankees can't give away his contract.
Now, sure, it's the Yankees and they print money. The Orioles would have much more difficulty absorbing such a financial blow. But they won't have to with this one.
And if he is even moderately successful, it can only be helpful for the Orioles in their pursuit of Japanese talent in the future. Remember, this guy is the Japanese equivalent of a two-time Cy Young Award winner for the Yankees. He has a huge following back home, even if his best days are behind him.
The bottom line for me is that this doesn't make the Orioles a playoff contender. It doesn't lift them out of a projected fifth-place finish. But it is low risk with a reward that has the potential to go beyond wins and losses.
Oh, and it ensures Jeremy Guthrie won't have to start 162 games in 2009.
Daily Think Special: Do you like the Koji Uehara signing?