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THE HOT CORNER: Fans show colors in All-Star vote

by Jim Allen (Jul 2, 2009)

One might feel the need to remove the rose-colored shades after seeing so much red on Monday, when the results of the All-Star voting was announced.

Hiroshima Carp fans have displaced the Hanshin Tigers legions of supporters as the best ballot-box stuffers in Japan. Sure, Hiroshima's new park diminishes their offensive figures, but four position players on the CL squad? Anyone who thinks so many deserve to be there is a good candidate to own red Carp pajamas.

It's a testimony to the exciting brand of ball the team plays that the Carp, who'll host Game 2 on July 25, landed five roster spots. Pitcher Kan Otake was the only one picked by the players, who added their voice to the debate last year.

Catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara, first baseman Kenta "The Last Samurai" Kurihara, second baseman Akihiro Higashide and outfielder Masato Akamatsu are all good players. But if you made the best team possible from all six CL rosters, these guys would sit a lot.

The Carp's success in the popular vote probably reflects the degree to which the Tigers have disappointed their rabid followers this season. The only Tiger to make the roster--although more could be added on Monday when the managers picks are announced--was left fielder Tomoaki Kanemoto, fourth in the fans vote but the No. 1 outfielder among his peers.

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' who've been at or near the top of the Pacific League all season and who will host July 24's Game 1 at Sapporo Dome, had only four make it. Ace pitcher Yu Darvish was a no-brainer, while a somewhat weak PL outfield pool allowed Atsunori Inaba to lead all players in Japan on both ballots. Fighters closer Hisashi Takeda was also a decent choice in an off season for PL bullpen stoppers.

The injustice is that while only four Fighters made the grade, one was Tomohiro Nioka, whom fans chose as the PL's designated hitter. As of Tuesday, Nioka had batted 78 times. The players, however, made the right pick: Nobuhiko Matsunaka of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

A fun thing about the All-Star hype is pondering why some are left out of the picture. Who do you want in the outfield, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows' Aaron Guiel, who is having a really good season, or bigger stars like Kanemoto or the Yomiuri Giants' Alex Ramirez, who were selected by their peers? Guiel, who was overlooked, has had a better year, but Aniki and Rami are bigger names.

There is something to be said for being famous, and it seems right for such big-time boppers to enjoy the spotlight.

The name game, however, gives the PL Nioka and the CL second baseman Masahiro Araki of the Chunichi Dragons.

Unlike Araki, the Swallows' Hiroyasu Tanaka lacks a big reputation and a Golden Glove--Araki has five--but is a much better player at this stage of his career. Beavis goes about his business, gets on base, hits for average with some extra bases and makes the plays in the field.

Tanaka, easily the best hitter among CL second basemen, deserves to be an All-Star and not an after thought.

Other interesting omissions from Monday's selections were Dragons outfielder Kazuhiro Wada (the CL's most consistent offensive player this season), Fighters outfielder Yoshio Itoi (second in the PL in slugging percentage, fifth in the league in on-base-percentage and fifth in the players' vote) and Fighters first baseman-catcher Shinji Takahashi (leads all PL first basemen in slugging and OBP).

The players get credit for selecting Hawks outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, a relative unknown having a banner season.

Here are The Hot Corner's picks (The Swallows' Norichika Aoki is having an off year but makes the cut because no one wants to see Guiel, Kanemoto or Ramirez in center):

Central League

SP: Kan Otake, Carp

C: Shinnosuke Abe, Giants

1B: Tony Blanco, Dragons

2B: Hiroyasu Tanaka, Swallows

3B: Michihiro Ogasawara, Giants

SS: Hayato Sakamoto, Giants

OF: Kazuhiro Wada, Dragons; Aaron Guiel, Swallows; Norichika Aoki, Swallows

Pacific League

SP: Yu Darvish, Fighters

C: Tomoya Satozaki, Marines

1B: Shinji Takahashi, Fighters

2B: Tadahito Iguchi, Marines

3B: Takeya Nakamura, Lions

SS: Hiroyuki Nakajima, Lions

OF: Yoshio Itoi, Fighters; Atsunori Inaba, Fighters; Yuya Hasegawa, Hawks

DH: Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Hawks


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