Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lenn Sakata, 1981 Donruss #499

I'm spending a lot more time this winter on Hot Stove talk than I did in early 2008. But yesterday's news was a lot more exciting than a Ramon Hernandez salary dump or a Mark Hendrickson signing. The Orioles have just come to terms with 34-year-old Koji Uehara, who will be the first Japanese player in team history. By extension, he's also the first Oriole born in an Asian country (Lenn Sakata was Hawaiian, by the way). This is an encouraging development
for several reasons. First and foremost, he's a legitimate starting pitcher. The only sure thing about the Birds' 2009 rotation was Jeremy Guthrie; now we can pencil in a veteran who has twice won his league's equivalent of the Cy Young Award for the Yomiuri Giants, one of the most successful and storied franchises in Japan. He has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of approximately 5-to-1, and a 12-0 record in international competition. Even though he struggled by his standards in 2008, his 3.81 ERA would have looked pretty damn good on the O's staff. As for his demotion to the minors, it's been suggested that the team was punishing him for his decision to pitch in America. Baltimore also signed him to a reasonable contract: two years, $10 million with an additional $6 million in incentives. Compare that to the five-year, $20 million Kei Igawa contract that the Yankees are saddled with (not to mention the $26 million they posted just to negotiate with him!).

Of greater significance still might be the Orioles' standing as an international player. After years of sticking their heads in the sand while the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, and others got a head start in scouting and signing in Cuba, Japan, and elsewhere, Andy MacPhail is truly rebuilding a badly damaged organization from the ground up. It's exciting to imagine throngs of Japanese baseball fans watching and reading about the Orioles. Heck, maybe they'll even throw some All-Star Game votes to the guys in orange and black!

Welcome to Baltimore, Koji. I hope there's a Japanese word for "hon".
Koji Uehara


dinged corners said...

Terrifically informative post. We had wondered about the 1981 Sakata card.

Anonymous said...

And do we all recall the time Sakata filled in at catcher when Tippy picked off 3 straight Blue Jays at first base?
Ah, the glory years. And too bad lousy Tom Marr was doing the play by play instead of vintage Jon Miller.

Bote Man said...

Then he smacked the home run that won the game, which Lowenstein cracked was "a victory for all minorities".