The Shohei Ohtani Saga Rages as the Baseball Season Gets Started

Listen to this article

With everything going on in the world today, from the war between Israel and the Palestinians to the intrigues of the upcoming elections — and that’s a topic-rich field of inquiry — there is one story that, no pun intended, trumps everything else here in the Southland, the Los Angeles Basin. And that topic is the alleged crimes of Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara.

The story, as of now, is that Mizuhara stole millions of dollars from Ohtani’s bank account to pay off illegal gambling debts to a California-based bookie — just an aside: why not visit Nevada from time-to-time? Sports betting is not legal in the Golden State, although we can bop on down to a horse racing track and bet on any number of horse races going on around America.

Southern California residents who want to gamble on their favorite sports teams will go to Nevada — Las Vegas or Laughlin — or go south across the border to Tijuana. There are a couple casinos within walking distance of the San Ysidro land port of entry. It’s a lot of fun with the nearby restaurants and bars.

But that’s not what Mizuhara did. Not T.J. nor Nevada.

The interpreter apparently made bad bets with a clandestine bookie somewhere in Southern California and then used Shohei Ohtani’s bank account to pay off his debts to the bookie. And Mizuhara was using Ohtani’s bank account without baseball’s greatest star’s knowledge or permission …

… Sure …

As often as I look at my bank and credit card accounts online throughout any random day, no unauthorized withdrawals would go unnoticed. Ever. Ohtani, we would assume, has a manager, a business manager, and investment broker who have access to his bank accounts, not to mention a bank’s safeguards when such large amounts are taken out of accounts, so how could the thefts go unnoticed? Another unanswered question: Why would any bookie allow someone to run up debts for millions of dollars?

Once, when I was in Las Vegas, I won a large amount of money and decided to check out the High Rollers area. The lowest allowed bets scared me off. Anyway, how can someone run up debts of $4.5 million? And then wire transfer the payoffs from someone else’s bank accounts without the account holder’s — or his various handlers — knowing about it?

The FBI. noticed and then the Los Angeles Times broke the story. The Feds are staying tight-lipped about their investigation, which included Ohtani in some way. It may be as innocuous as a bookie claiming to have an “Ohtani connection” to something heavier.

Early on someone claiming to be close to the two-way phenom said Ohtani was trying to help out his friend, Mizuhara, get out of a financial gambling debt, but that story was quickly denied by more official Ohtani spokespeople, even though that explanation makes more sense than an interpreter having such access to a sports phenom’s bank accounts that he can withdraw millions of dollars without any red flags being raised.

Does anyone in the Ohtani and Dodgers camps see the incredulity of that story? I get that the Dodgers want to protect their $700 million dollar investment and put all the blame on Mizuhara, but is that what the MLB and FBI investigations will show?

The Dodgers are hoping the press conference last week at Dodger Stadium put the story to bed, but with two major investigations, one of which is criminal in nature, going on this story is far from over.

Is the story the Dodgers are putting out there true? Might be. Stranger things have occurred in this world. Is Shohei Ohtani an innocent victim of “massive theft” at the hands of his former interpreter? Am I going to win the Mega Millions Lottery Friday? Both questions can possibly be answered with “Yes,” but what are the odds? For the Mega Millions Lottery, 1t”s 1 in 303 million chance. For the Dodgers’ story that Ohtani is an innocent victim in this … well, I’m going out to get some Mega Millions Lottery tickets. For the other gamble: I’ll wait until the FBI finishes its investigation to decide about Ohtani.

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

It’s Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. At the moment the game is in the top of the fifth inning and the Dodgers are beating the St. Louis Cardinals 1-5. Shohei Ohtani is batting second, behind Mookie Betts and in front of Freddie Freeman. That’s $700 million out there as the designated hitter so they need him in every game possible.

On an unrelated note: Catcher Will Smith signed a ten year deal worth $140 million with the Dodgers. Congratulations to Smith.