The most famous baseball player in the world is now involved in a multi-million dollar gambling scandal, months after signing the richest contract in the history of his sport. On Wednesday March 20th, the Los Angeles Dodgers fired Shohei Ohtani‘s interpreter and friend, Ippei Mizuhara. Initial reports claimed that Mizuhara had stolen millions of dollars from Ohtani’s to place bets with an illegal bookmaker. Since the initial report, conflicting stories and baseless conspiracies have been circling viciously. While most sports fans are familiar with the charming, uber talented Ohtani, many have been left wondering about Mr. Mizuhara.

Ippei Mizuhara

When Shohei Ohtani signed to the Los Angeles Dodgers, it became known that Mizuhara, who had been Ohtani’s interpreter since joining the Angels in 2018, would remain Shohei’s Dodgers interpreter. Ohtani and Mizuhara are closer than most player interpreter duos. In an interview with The Athletic from 2023, Mizuhara said that he is “with [Ohtani] 365 days of the year”. Mizuhara himself concurred that this was a unique partnership.

The Story

When it was reported that $4.5 million was transferred from a Shohei Ohtani account to a bookie, it was immediately called theft, with the blame landing solely on Ippei Mizuhara.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Ippei Mizuhara did an interview with ESPN’s Tisha Thompson, where Mizuhara shared his account of the situation. While Mizuhara suggested that Ohtani was privy to the gambling debts, he was also adamant that Ohtani was not involved with any betting, and admitted his own ’embarrassing’ gambling addiction. Despite these proclamations, attorneys in Shohei Ohtani’s camp disavowed Mizuhara’s accounts, causing further confusion and speculations.

Mizuhara confessed that none of the bets had anything to do with MLB matches. He knew that this was strictly prohibited, and claimed to have been betting on soccer and football primarily. A tweet from Los Angeles Angels beat writer Jeff Fletcher went viral as de facto defense of Ohtani:

While there has been speculation on social media of Ohtani’s liability in the gambling debts, the professional reports consistently suggest otherwise. That being said, each new report has caused more complexity, which begets more speculation.

The Statement/Investigation

On March 22nd, two days after the initial reports, Major League Baseball released an official statement, regarding an internal investigation of the situation.

It is not surprising that the MLB’s DOI is conducting an investigation, but it is significant.

When the DOI investigated the Houston Astros in the wake of their infamous sign stealing scandal years ago, major fines and punishments were handed out to several parties within the Astros organization. The MLB combed through 70,000 emails, and conducted 70 detailed interviews. All that to say, there is no limit to how thorough of an investigation the MLB will conduct. It has also been rumored that the IRS has started to investigate Mizuhara.

The Stakes

Shohei Ohtani is the most marketable player baseball has ever seen. Not only does he play for the most marketable franchise, he has a significant international audience, and is a brilliant ballplayer. Whether Ohtani is personally culpable for illegal activity or not, this situation causes irreversible damage to his brand. There’s no reason to suspect that Ohtani will be anything less than stellar on the field this season. He has nearly solidified himself as a future Hall of Fame inductee for his unique skillset.

When it comes to legacy, even small stains are visible when looking at the resume. Fans don’t forget. Maybe some truths will never become public in regards to this scandal. There is millions of dollars on the line for Ohtani, and potentially for Major League Baseball, which correlates to the present lack of transparency. For several parties, the stakes of this scandal are as high as the sky.

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