Gi­ants pitch­ers sus­pended in Ja­pan bet­ting scan­dal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

TOKYO: Ja­pan’s pro base­ball or­gan­i­sa­tion yes­ter­day said it had sus­pended three pitch­ers in­def­i­nitely and fined its big­gest team, the Yomi­uri Gi­ants, $800,000 over a bet­ting scan­dal which has shocked the sport.

Nip­pon Pro­fes­sional Base­ball (NPB) sus­pended Gi­ants pitch­ers Satoshi Fukuda, Shoki Kasa­hara and Ryuya Mat­sumoto for bet­ting on games, which is il­le­gal. They are re­port­edly the first such sanc­tions in 56 years.

“They can’t play in the pro­fes­sional league for an in­def­i­nite pe­riod of time but it’s pos­si­ble that they can be re­in­stated later if there is a call for le­niency,” an NPB spokesman told AFP.

The NPB im­posed 10 mil­lion yen ($800,000) in fines on the Gi­ants-Ja­pan’s most valu­able team and the equiv­a­lent of the New York Yan­kees in terms of pop­u­lar­ity-for fail­ing to prop­erly su­per­vise the play­ers.

The ul­ti­mate im­pact on the Gi­ants re­mains to be seen, but the scan­dal was seen as dam­ag­ing to the sport which is one of five pro­posed for in­clu­sion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

At a press con­fer­ence Tues­day, NPB com­mis­sioner Kat­suhiko Ku­mazaki said it had “de­graded pro­fes­sional base­ball and de­stroyed the trust of many fans”.

Hiroshi Kubo, pres­i­dent of the Gi­ants, apol­o­gised at a sep­a­rate press con­fer­ence late Tues­day, say­ing: “We re­gard this as an ex­tremely grave sit­u­a­tion, and ex­press our sin­cere apol­ogy to fans.”

An in-house NPB re­port sub­mit­ted on Tues­day found that the play­ers bet money with known gam­blers in about 10 pro­fes­sional base­ball games, but did not find any ev­i­dence of game-fix­ing.

One of them bet on a Yomi­uri Gi­ants game but did not play in the game, it said. The bans were front-page news in mass- cir­cu­la­tion news­pa­pers on Wed­nes­day in Ja­pan, where the sport is wildly pop­u­lar and the level of play world-class.

Many of Ja­pan’s top play­ers have mi­grated to Ma­jor League base­ball in the United States over the past two decades. Among top Ja­panese play­ers cur­rently in the US Ma­jor League are out­fielder and ace bat­ter Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Mar­lins, and Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish.

‘An em­bar­rass­ment’

Gam­bling in Ja­pan is gen­er­ally il­le­gal, in­clud­ing most sports bet­ting. The bans were the first since 1969, when a game-fix­ing scan­dal linked to gam­bling and or­gan­ised crime rocked the sport, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal me­dia.

It was not clear if the play­ers will face crim­i­nal charges, but spokesman Sa­toru Mat­sunaga of the Tokyo Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment said po­lice “have ques­tioned the three pitch­ers on a vol­un­tary ba­sis”.

“We can’t dis­close the con­tents of the in­ter­views,” he told AFP, when asked about lo­cal re­ports that in­ves­ti­ga­tors were check­ing if the play­ers had vi­o­lated the crim­i­nal law against gam­bling.

Top sports of­fi­cials ex­pressed con­cern over the im­pact. “It is an em­bar­rass­ment for the world of sports,” Daichi Suzuki, for­mer Olympic swim­ming cham­pion and chief of Ja­pan’s new gov­ern­ment sports agency, said ac­cord­ing to the Asahi news­pa­per.

“I will do my best through (ad­min­is­tra­tive) guidance to pro­tect the no­bil­ity of Ja­panese sports.” Ja­pan Olympic Com­mit­tee’s pres­i­dent Tsunekazu Takeda ex­pressed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments. “We have to do our best in su­per­vis­ing each sports or­gan­i­sa­tion,” he told the Asahi. Tokyo 2020 Olympic of­fi­cials are ST PAUL: Win­nipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler (26) con­trols the puck in front of Min­nesota Wild de­fense­man Nate Prosser (39) dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod of an NHL hockey game in St Paul, Minn., Tues­day. The Wild won 5-3. — AP keen to see base­ball re­in­stated af­ter los­ing its sta­tus in the qua­dren­nial sum­mer event in 2008, and has said the scan­dal threat­ened the in­tegrity of the sport. Ob­servers said the pun­ish­ment was ap­pro­pri­ate but a key is to pre­vent a re­peat. “It is a se­ri­ous con­cern that this kind of prob­lem occurred in the Gi­ants, the leader in the world of base­ball,” Mune­hiko Harada, pro­fes­sor of sports science at Waseda Univer­sity, told the Yomi­uri news­pa­per.

“The base­ball league as a whole is re­quired to think about pre­ven­tive mea­sures,” he said. Shinya Miyamoto, for­merly of the Yakult Swal­lows, a Cen­tral League ri­val to the Gi­ants, and who was a mem­ber of the NPB probe team, told the Asahi: “It’s un­de­ni­able that there are var­i­ous temp­ta­tions (in pro­fes­sional base­ball). “It’s im­por­tant to pro­mote play­ers’ aware­ness (that gam­bling is il­le­gal).” — AFP

NY Rangers 11 2 2 45 25 24 Wash­ing­ton 10 4 0 43 32 20 NY Is­lan­ders 8 5 3 44 39 19 Pitts­burgh 9 5 0 31 28 18 New Jer­sey 8 6 1 37 38 17 Philadel­phia 5 7 3 28 43 13 Carolina 6 9 0 30 43 12 Colum­bus 4 12 0 38 59 8 Note: Over­time losses (OTL) are worth one point in the stand­ings and are not in­cluded in the loss col­umn (L)

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