Giants owner, chairman, supreme adviser to step down as gambling scandal widens

Pitcher Takagi becomes fourth Yomiuri player linked to betting on baseball


Three top officials of the Yomiuri Giants, Japan’s oldest existing professional baseball team, will resign following the team’s announcement on Tuesday that a fourth Giants player was found to have bet on baseball.

According to the team, left-handed reliever Kyosuke Takagi, who has pitched in 139 games over the past four seasons, told the club earlier in the day that he had bet on baseball from 2014. Three of Takagi’s teammates received indefinite suspensions in November, after they were involved in the same gambling scheme.

None of the four pitchers were found to have been involved in match fixing or betting on games in which they actually played.

At Tuesday’s news conference, the Central League club announced that team owner Kojiro Shiraishi, team chairman Tsunekazu Momoi and supreme adviser Tsuneo Watanabe will step down to accept responsibility. Watanabe, the most powerful individual in Nippon Professional Baseball for decades, had been the owner of the Giants until 2004, when he resigned after his club admitted to paying marquee amateur pitcher Yasuhiro Ichiba.

“The team humbly apologizes for causing trouble in this important time leading up to the opening of the new season on March 25,” said team president Hiroshi Kubo, who announced he was accepting a suspension. “We apologize to all those who love baseball, to the citizens of Japan and to the other teams.”

The team conducted an investigation last autumn after learning on Oct. 5 that pitcher Satoshi Fukuda had been involved in betting on baseball, including Giants games — although not games he was involved in. The involvement of fellow pitchers Shoki Kasahara and Ryuya Matsumoto was revealed later that month.

The Giants questioned every person with the club about gambling, but found no further connections — until they were contacted by weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun on Feb. 29 about Takagi’s gambling.

The pitcher, who told the team he quit betting after losing between ¥500,000 and ¥600,000, at first concocted an excuse, but after consulting with his family on Monday, decided to inform the team that it was a lie.

The Giants original investigation into the matter also relied to some degree on forensic digital examinations of the three players’ smart phones. The team’s general affairs director Kiyoshi Morita added that investigations would continue but that it was a tough task for the club.

“For the team, all we can do was ask people to be courageous and speak up,” Morita said. “Investigating smart phones is not a magic bullet. The officials’ investigation was unable to cope, and that difficult situation is going to continue.”