The Shohei Ohtani Saga…

It began late morning yesterday.  I got an email from a reader and moments later got a text from a friend.  They both asked the same question:

  • What is the story with Shohei Otani’s interpreter?

As the day progressed, I got more emails and more texts with the same generic query, and I answered all of them in the same way.  I said I didn’t have enough information to understand it all.  Look, I am not a crusading and truth-seeking journalist; I am a hedonist, and my focus yesterday was watching March Madness games on my TV set in my comfy chair.

Here are some bits of information:

  • The Dodgers fired Ippei Mizuhara who is a friend of Ohtani’s and who has served as Ohtani’s interpreter for about 7 years.
  • Media reports said that Mizuhara had stolen millions of dollars from Ohtani to cover gambling debts.
  • Reports also said that a federal investigation of an alleged illegal bookie named Matthew Bowyer is somehow related to the firing of Mizuhara.
  • An ESPN report said that Mizuhara admitted to large gambling debts, but that Ohtani had not done any betting.  In an interview with ESPN, Mizuhara said Ohtani knew that Mizuhara had incurred gambling debts and that Ohtani had loaned him the money to cover those debts.
  • Persons identified as “representatives of Ohtani” say that Ohtani was the victim of “massive theft”, but they do not address who the thief might be.

Frankly, it appears to me that the missing pieces here all derive from the answer(s) to a variant of Senator Howard Baker’s (R- Tenn) famous question during the Watergate hearings:

  • What did Ohtani know and when did he know it?

With some clarity on that question, one might advance to the next level of inquiry:

  • After Ohtani knew what he knew, what did he do with that information?

There is a starkly obvious matter here and a murkier one too.  The obvious one is that we know about “betting on baseball” and the consequences of doing that for anyone involved with baseball.  Put that aside; if any information comes forth related to such an activity, the outcome is both clear and dire.  The murky issue here is this:

  • Sports betting is illegal in California.  However, there are “offshore books” where people in California evidently place wagers on sporting events.
  • The current CBA between MLB and the MLBPA prohibits betting with illegal bookmakers or illegal offshore sportsbooks or websites.

I have no idea as to the “Illegality” of the “offshore books” that seem to exist to serve the desires of folks in California to bet on sports.  But that too seems like a critical question that will need to be addressed as this entire matter unfolds.

There is one aspect to this story that gave me pause from the time that I read about it.  Mizuhara was fired by the LA Dodgers which means to me that he was a Dodgers’ employee and not someone hired by Ohtani.  Since Mizuhara has also been described as a long-time friend of Ohtani’s and who has been working with Ohtani for more than a decade, that was an atonal note in the symphony here.  As I said yesterday, I need more information to make sense of all this.  I suspect more will be forthcoming; this story is not going to just dry up and blow away.

Moving on …  If anyone tells me they still have a pristine bracket left after yesterday’s results, I am going to need video evidence that has been notarized with time stamps affixed to support such a claim.  Clearly, the biggest shock of the day was Kentucky (seeded #3) losing to Oakland (seeded #14).  But it was a day of college basketball that saw several other upsets and a very close call for Kansas.  Three teams seeded #11 in their bracket beat opponents seeded #6 yesterday:

  • Duquesne beat BYU by 4 points but led by as many as 14 points in the game.
  • NC State beat Texas Tech by 13 points and showed no signs of “weariness” after winning the ACC Tournament by winning 5 games in a row over a 5-day span.
  • Oregon beat South Carolina handily by 14 points.

The SEC had 8 teams in the tournament and three of them bowed out in the first round yesterday.  In addition to Kentucky and South Carolina losing to lower seeded teams, Mississippi State lost by 18 points to Michigan State yesterday.

Tomorrow night in prime time, Oakland (14-seed) and NC State (11-seed) will play, and one will advance to the Sweet Sixteen.  I doubt there were too many brackets that foretold that confrontation.

The good news for me here is that my prediction for the teams making the Final Four remains alive.  Tennessee won handily over St. Peter’s yesterday moving on the face Texas tomorrow night.

Finally, since today began with reports related to gambling debts, let me close with this:

“I used to have a horrible gambling addiction, but I wager I’ll never gamble again.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “The Shohei Ohtani Saga…”

  1. As I understand it, teams are required to provide interpreters for their players. Thus, they are paid by the teams.
    Ohtani’s interpreter was particularly well paid at about $300k per year.
    If Ohtani paid off these gambling debts in the form of a loan or gift, as the interpreter originally said, Ohtani may face sanctions from MLB. The fact that the interpreter changed his story somewhat after word got out has raised suspicions among some observers. So the question you raised about what Ohtani knew will be very important.

    1. Gil:

      I suspect that Dodgers’ fans are hoping that Ohtani is the “Sergeant Schultz” of this matter …

Comments are closed.