NPB bans pitcher Takagi one year for gambling

Giants terminate 26-year-old's contract


Yomiuri Giants pitcher Kyosuke Takagi has been banned for one year for his involvement in gambling on baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball announced Tuesday.

NPB commissioner Katsuhiko Kumazaki handed down the decision to the 26-year-old reliever following a meeting of the investigation panel. The Giants, who terminated Takagi’s contract with immediate effect, were also fined ¥5 million, NPB said.

Three other Yomiuri pitchers — Satoshi Fukuda, Shoki Kasahara and Ryuya Matsumoto — were banned indefinitely in November for their roles in the scheme.

Kumazaki said Takagi received a lighter sentence than the other three due to the brief period of his involvement from April to May 2014 before cutting off ties with Kasahara, who repeatedly tried to entice him back into the ring.

“(Takagi) only bet on eight or nine games during a span of 10 days or so and quit right away,” Kumazaki said. “After that, Kasahara tried to solicit him several times, but he turned him down each time.

“Compared to the three players including Kasahara, there’s a clear difference in the degree of his involvement in gambling on baseball.”

Kumazaki added the investigation uncovered no evidence Takagi wagered on Giants games nor that he was involved in any form of match-fixing.

On the other hand, Kasahara, Fukuda and Matsumoto also bet on high school and Major League Baseball games, and played high-stakes mahjong and baccarat through a known illegal gambler.

They gambled after practice in the clubhouse or near stadiums, and NPB held Yomiuri liable.

Takagi confessed to his involvement at a tear-filled news conference on March 9, a development that led to the resignation of the team’s three most powerful executives, including supreme adviser Tsuneo Watanabe.

Also Tuesday, the Seibu Lions revealed that one current team personnel — they would not say whether it was the manager, a coach or a player — bet on mahjong games with Kasahara and the known gambler in 2013.

The Lions said the person in question told the club that he did not know the gambler was being targeted by NPB until last October, when the story broke.

Seibu said it notified the commissioner’s office about the employee in writing on Tuesday.

Betting on high school games

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Hanshin Tigers had been running an in-house pool on high school baseball, the teams said Tuesday.

The matter will be discussed at a meeting of the 12 team representatives on Wednesday. Five NPB clubs now have admitted to their players’ organizing pool betting on high school baseball.

Softbank and Hanshin held a lottery to guess the winner of the high school national championship, while Yakult’s pool, which included around 10 players, involved picking the winning team and the score of the tournament final.

While the pools do not violate the baseball charter, the teams will try to put a stop to the activity.

“It’s obviously for fun, but it could possibly lead to illegal gambling or betting on baseball,” Tigers president Keiichiro Yotsufuji said.