Sports

Here’s what we know about the allegations against Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara

LOS ANGELES –

Only a week has passed since the Los Angeles Dodgers suddenly released Ippei Mizuhara, the interpreter and constant companion of their new $700 million slugger Shohei Ohtani.

But the biggest story of spring baseball is still unclear — and shocking — as the regular season begins in earnest on Thursday.

The scandal involves gambling, alleged theft, extensive deception and the breakup of an enduring partnership between the majors’ biggest star and his right-hand man. The IRS and Major League Baseball investigations are ongoing, and Ohtani publicly laid out a version of events Monday that attributed sole responsibility to Mizuhara.

Here are the basics as Ohtani and the Dodgers prepare for their home opener against St. Louis on Thursday:

Why was Ippei Mizuhara fired by the Dodgers?

Ohtani claims his close friend repeatedly withdrew money from his accounts to fund his illegal sports betting. Ohtani also says he was completely unaware of the “massive theft,” as his lawyers called it, until Mizuhara confessed to him and the Dodgers last week in South Korea, where the team opened its regular season against the San Diego Padres.

Mizuhara has laid out more than one version of his path to this problem, which was accelerated by the IRS investigation into Mathew Bowyer, a suspected illegal bookmaker. Mizuhara has repeatedly said he has a gambling addiction, and he has abused his close friendship with the Dodgers superstar to feed it.

Has Shohei Ohtani ever bet on sports?

That’s the most important question to be answered in Major League Baseball’s investigation, and the two-time AL MVP says emphatically that he has never bet on sports or asked anyone to bet on sports for him.

Additionally, Ohtani said Monday he never knowingly paid a bookmaker to cover other people’s bets. Mizuhara also said Ohtani wasn’t betting, and Bowyer’s attorney said the same.

Mizuhara told ESPN on March 19 that Ohtani paid off his gambling debts at the interpreter’s request, saying the bets were on international soccer, the NBA, the NFL and college football. If that were true, Ohtani could be in trouble even if he hadn’t made the bets himself – but ESPN said Mizuhara dramatically changed his story the next day, claiming Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling debts and no money to bookmakers transferred .

MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from betting, even legally, on baseball. They also ban betting on other sports at illegal or offshore bookmakers.

What’s next for Ohtani?

Ohtani has played in every Dodgers game since the story broke and is expected to be their designated hitter in most regular-season games this season as the baseball investigation continues.

Ohtani says his legal team alerted authorities to Mizuhara’s theft, although his team has repeatedly refused to say which authorities were informed, according to ESPN.

Ohtani’s new interpreter is Will Ireton, a longtime Dodgers employee and fluent Japanese speaker who has held multiple jobs with the team in everything from game preparation and analysis to recruiting free agent pitches. But Ireton won’t be Ohtani’s constant companion, and manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday he’s optimistic Ohtani will get closer to his teammates without the “buffer” that Mizuhara has provided for years.

What don’t we know?

The MLB investigation into Ohtani’s role in the events could take weeks or months and is unlikely to be made public until it is complete. No one outside Ohtani’s inner circle knows what will happen or how severe the impact could be, and no one outside the circle is making informed speculation about the trial.

A big question arises: How was Mizuhara able to gain enough access to Ohtani’s bank accounts to get the alleged millions without Ohtani knowing? Is the slugger too trusting or is he completely negligent in managing his huge fortune, which includes not only his baseball salaries but also years of generous endorsement deals? Why didn’t the team around him, including his agent, do more to prevent the possibility of the theft he claimed?

Finally, where is Mizuhara? Anyone who knows doesn’t say it. He was fired in South Korea and apparently didn’t travel home with the Dodgers. Japanese media visited his home in Southern California to search for him. Although he was born in Japan, Mizuhara lives in the United States – but his life will never be the same.

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