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Kanemoto, Sugiuchi garner top honors in Central, Pacific

Hanshin Tigers outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto and Softbank Hawks lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi were named the Most Valuable Players in their respective leagues for the 2005 season on Friday.

Both players received the accolade for the first time in their careers.

Kanemoto helped lead Hanshin to its first Central League title in two years after hitting .327 with a career-high 40 homers and 125 RBIs this past season and was named the CL MVP by a wide margin over teammates Kyuji Fujikawa and Makoto Imaoka.

Sugiuchi won the Pacific League title after winning 18 games and recording the best ERA of 2.11. The year-end honors are determined through balloting by baseball reporters with five or more years of experience. Five points are given for a first-place vote, three for a second and one for a third.

Kanemoto collected 148 first-place votes, 46 second place votes and 16 third-place votes for the CL MVP while Sugiuchi received 55 first-place votes, 55 second-place and 26 third-place votes, respectively, to outpoint teammate Nobuhiko Matsunaka for the PL MVP.

The Rookie of the Year awards went to Yakult Swallows leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki, who became the second player in Japanese baseball history to record 200 hits in a season, and Lotte Marines right-hander Yasutomu Kubo, who posted 10 wins.

Seven players were named to the All-PL “Best Nine” for the first time, including Japan Series MVP third baseman Toshiaki Imae from Lotte and teammate Koichi Hori (second baseman). Hori was named for the first time in his 18-year career.

Central League RBI champion Imaoka (third baseman) was among four Hanshin players along with Norihiro Akahoshi (outfielder) named to the All-CL “Best Nine,” while Hiroki Kuroda (pitcher) and home run champion Takahiro Arai (first baseman) were selected from the last-place Hiroshima Carp.

There were no players selected for the “Best Nine” from Orix for the first time in 39 years and none named from the Yomiuri Giants for the first time in 12 years.

No word on Rakuten

SAPPORO (Kyodo) Orix Buffaloes owner Yoshihiko Miyauchi said Friday that no conclusion has been reached on whether or not Rakuten Inc. has infringed on Japanese baseball bylaws by emerging as the largest shareholder of Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc.

Miyauchi, who chaired the owners’ meeting at a Sapporo hotel, said discussions will continue on E-commerce company Rakuten’s recent moves to acquire a substantial stake in the parent company of the Yokohama BayStars at the next owners’ meeting.

Japanese baseball bylaws prohibit anyone from simultaneously holding shares or being involved in the management of more than one ballclub in order to secure fairness of games, although there are no clauses governing the ownership of parent companies.

Another topic to be taken up again at the next owners’ meeting is the listing of the shares of the Hanshin Tigers pro baseball team on a stock exchange for public trading after the Murakami Fund acquired a large stake in parent company Hanshin Electric Railway Co.

Toyoda a free agent

The Seibu Lions are keen to retain the services of closer Kiyoshi Toyoda while the Yomiuri Giant are also showing interest after the right-hander filed for free agency on Friday.

Toyoda, who posted a 3-1 record this past season with 19 saves and a 3.97 ERA, hinted he could jump ship after failing to conclude a deal with the Lions after two rounds of negotiations.