TOKYO—Three top executives at Japan’s oldest and most prestigious baseball team, the Yomiuri Giants, will step down after a fourth player admitted this week to betting on baseball games.
The latest revelation, just weeks before the start of a new season, is attracting widespread attention and some hand-wringing in Japan.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga weighed in during a news conference Wednesday morning.
“Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan, and the professional baseball players are role models for many children. The fact that those who took part in betting on baseball is spreading is an extremely serious problem. It’s an act that betrays the fans,” Mr. Suga said.
Based in Tokyo and with a hefty payroll, the Giants are Japan’s version of the New York Yankees. Former Giants who have played in the U.S.’s major league include Hideki Matsuiand Koji Uehara.
Left-handed relief pitcher Kyosuke Takagi, 26 years old, admitted on Tuesday to betting on three or four games beginning in 2014, and losing about ¥500,000 ($4,440) to ¥600,000, the Giants said.
Mr. Takagi is the fourth Giants player to admit gambling on baseball games since October. The three others, also pitchers, have been suspended indefinitely.
The Giants’ three executives, including owner Kojiro Shiraishi and “supreme adviser”Tsuneo Watanabe, will resign from their management positions to take responsibility. Mr. Watanabe, 89, is a legendary figure who long held sway at the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s highest-circulation newspaper and the parent of the baseball team.
“This is a matter of greatest regret for the team,” Giants President Hiroshi Kubo said Tuesday night.
Mr. Takagi and the other pitchers have all denied betting on Giants games, team spokesman Tomoki Hasegawa said.
The Giants didn’t make Mr. Takagi available for comment.
The team had questioned its players about possible misconduct after three admitted to gambling offenses in October. Mr. Takagi had initially denied betting on baseball, but confessed after magazine reports were published in February.
Mr. Hasegawa said the pitcher decided to come clean after his parents told him to do so.
The Giants said they reported Mr. Takagi to the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, which will launch an investigation.
“All teams should conduct investigations to make sure similar cases are not overlooked,”Daichi Suzuki, the chief of the government’s sports agency, told reporters Wednesday.
Mr. Takagi was acquired by the Giants in the 2011 draft. He appeared in 139 games in four seasons, and has an earned run average of 3.03 in 148.1 innings.