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Luna an All-Star snub despite playing at high level

by Jason Coskrey

Hector Luna will probably spend the All-Star break relaxing, when really, he should be working. Instead, the Chunichi Dragons third baseman will be on the outside looking in during the NPB All-Star Series July 18 and 19.

Injury robbed Luna of the chance to be an All-Star in 2013, his first season in Japan. This year it was basically an invigorated opposing fan base coupled with a bit of oversight that left him lost in the shuffle.

There’s little argument that Luna has All-Star numbers. He had the highest batting average in the Central League when the team was announced last week and entered Saturday’s games hitting a Central League-best .344 with an on-base percentage of .420 (second in the CL), slugging .558 (third in the league), and hitting .378 with runners in scoring position (third).

Luna also had 14 home runs and 56 RBIs. Among his other extra-base hits were 14 doubles and four triples. He also had seven stolen bases.

None of that was enough.

There were three avenues by which Luna could’ve made the team: fan voting, player voting and manager selection.

He was fifth in the fan vote with 113,290 votes. That tally was won by the Hiroshima Carp’s Shota Dobayashi, who through Saturday had played in 36 games to Luna’s 79 and was hitting .243 with four home runs and 15 RBIs. Dobayashi had 188,478 votes.

The players’ vote was won by the Yomiuri Giants’ Shuichi Murata, who edged Luna 290-241. Murata through Saturday had a .279 average, 11 homers and 38 RBIs. Luna was also not among the manager’s selections.

His absence is easily an All-Star snub. Luna deserved the call over Dobayashi, who benefited from a rabid Carp fan base, and also over Murata, who in turn deserved it over Dobayashi. He also wasn’t thrown a bone by CL manager Tatsunori Hara.

Unless Luna is called on to replace an injured player, one of the most deserving players will be sitting at home when the CL locks horns with the Pacific League next week.

Made in America: New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish were both named All-Stars when the rosters for MLB’s Midsummer Classic were announced last week. Japan’s MLB All-Star contingent grew by one a few days later when Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara was announced as a replacement for Tanaka, who went on the disabled list on Wednesday and won’t pitch in the game.

“Really well deserved,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said on the team’s official website. “No one has pitched as well out of the bullpen for the last year plus than he has. I’m very happy for him. Hopefully he’s honored by it, and he should be. He’s more than deserving.”

The trio of former multiple-time NPB All-Stars continues the legacy of Japanese players being selected to represent the American League in the MLB contest.

Of the 12 Japanese players to have been named to an MLB All-Star roster, nine have come from AL teams.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hideo Nomo, Japan’s first MLB All-Star, suited up for the National League as a rookie in 1995. It wasn’t until 2007 that another Japanese star flew the NL colors — Dodgers reliever Takashi Saito. Kosuke Fukudome, an All-Star in 2008 with the Chicago Cubs, is the only other Japanese player to suit up for the NL.