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Forget Yasiel Puig — New York Yankees' Hiroki Kuroda Is Biggest All-Star Snub

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New York Yankees: Big in Japan
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Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.

COMMENTARY | Yasiel Puig has nothing on the New York Yankees' Hiroki Kuroda when it comes to being snubbed for this year's All-Star game.

Among American League pitchers, Kuroda is second in ERA (2.65), fifth in WHIP (1.053), and seventh in WAR (3.2). His 8-6 record is not indicative of the season he's having. (All-Star Mariano Rivera's only two blown saves this season have come after Kuroda tossed seven shutout innings.)

Seemingly ignoring Kuroda's numbers, American League manager Jim Leyland recently named Baltimore Orioles starter Chris Tillman (11-3, 3.95 ERA, 1.352 WHIP) to replace Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Earlier, he named Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Moore (13-3, 3.44 ERA, 1.286 WHIP) to replace injured Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish.

Leyland has also tabbed two closers -- the Oakland Athletics' Grant Balfour and the Kansas City Royals' Greg Holland -- to replace two starters (Oakland's Bartolo Colon and the Seattle Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma).

"There is always going to be a number of guys [who get snubbed," Yankees manager Joe Giradi recently told reporters. "I wish he would have been an All-Star, but he's not. I'm sure he'll enjoy his four days."

Perhaps Leyland needed to see Kuroda in person, as none of the right-hander's 19 starts this season have come against Leyland's Detroit Tigers. (Last season, Kuroda was mediocre in two starts against Detroit, surrendering 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings in one outing (a 4-3 Yankees victory) and 7 hits and 3 walks over 7 innings in another (a 4-3 Tigers win).

Through an interpreter, Kuroda told reporters Friday that he was "not really" disappointed about being left off the American League roster and mentioned that he understood that the complex selection process often leads deserving candidates to be left off the team.

The saddest part of Kuroda being snubbed is that he may return to Japan next season without ever earned the earned the "All-Star" designation next to his name. There has been speculation that Kuroda will return to the Hiroshima Carp of Japan Central League -- the team he started with. Since signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers 6 years ago, he's been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball.

Puig? He's got plenty of time to earn All-Star honors.

Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.

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