• The Associated Press


The Japanese baseball commissioner’s office on Monday postponed a vote on a hotly contested merger between the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix BlueWave, after a court appealed for time to consider a request from the players’ association to block the tie-up.

The delay was the latest hitch in the two teams’ merger plans — a realignment that has been at the center of a debate over the fate of Japanese baseball’s two-league system.

Players and fans have strongly opposed the merger, fearing it would lead to fewer teams and a single league for the first time since 1955. Last Friday, the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association sought an injunction from the court against the merger.

At a meeting called by the commissioner’s office Monday, management from the 12 baseball teams decided to abide by the Tokyo District Court’s request not to vote on the merger yet, a commissioner’s office spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

The spokesman said the teams would “meet soon to vote again” but declined to elaborate.

It’s not clear when the court will reach its verdict on whether Kintetsu and Orix can push ahead with consolidation to try to reverse their deteriorating finances and dwindling ticket sales. Court officials refused to comment on the case.

But the prospect of drawn-out legal action could complicate matters for team owners, who are expected to reach the three-fourths majority needed for the merger to proceed when they meet on Sept. 8.

Kintetsu and Orix — both in the Pacific League and based in western Japan — announced in June that they would merge, and signed a formal deal last week. A merger is expected to eliminate as many as 100 jobs for players and team personnel.

The players have called upon the Nippon Professional Baseball organization to postpone the merger plan for at least one year, and have threatened to strike this season in protest.

Although no date has been set, a player strike could wipe out the Japan Series and perhaps a Major League All-Star tour of Japan in November.

Separately, on Monday, Japan’s anti-monopoly regulator said it would investigate the Nippon Professional Baseball organization if the owners rejected Internet services company Livedoor’s expected bid in November to start a new baseball team.

Livedoor, based in Tokyo, has said it would form a new club to fill the spot left by the Kintetsu-Orix merger, after its attempt in June to purchase the Buffaloes from the team’s parent company, railway operator Kintetsu Corp., was rejected.

Marines crush Lions

CHIBA (Kyodo) Benny Agbayani and Tetsuya Kakiuchi homered and Naoyuki Shimizu struck out 13 as the Lotte Marines pounded out 17 hits on their way to a 12-1 rout of the Seibu Lions in the Pacific League on Monday.

Lotte went ahead in the first inning with an RBI single by Kazuya Fukuura before Agbayani highlighted a five-run second with a two-run shot off Atsushi Okamoto (1-1) at Chiba Marine Stadium.

The games between the Nippon Ham Fighters and the Daiei Hawks and the Kintetsu Buffaloes against the Orix BlueWave were both called off due to Typhoon Chaba.

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