Los Angeles Dodgers star two-way player, Shohei Ohtani clears his name from any gambling allegations, but what does this mean for his future with the Dodgers and overall career?

Shohei Ohtani is currently one of the greatest players in the MLB. The Japanese star initially came over to the U.S. to play for the Los Angeles Angels in 2017 and along came Ippei Mizuhara, his lifelong friend and interpreter. In December 2023, Ohtani signed the largest contract in MLB history with a record-breaking $700 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

While the Dodgers were in Seoul, South Korea, playing against the San Diego Padres in a two-game series, rumors concerning Ohtani and two wire transfers, totaling $1 million, to a bookmaking operation in Southern California raised a few flags with the MLB. The wire transfers were sent in September and October before the contract with the Dodgers was signed.

Later on that same day, a spokesperson for Ohtani had a 90-minute interview with ESPN, where it was said that Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, spoke with Mizuhara who “finally came clean to him and said that was the truth.” The truth was that Ohtani had covered Mizuhara’s debts in two payments of $500,000.

After the first game of the regular game series between LA and San Diego, the Dodgers held a meeting in the clubhouse where the team owner, Mark Walter, shared with the team that a negative story was coming. Mizuhara explained what the story was and apologized, telling the team that he has a gambling addiction. At this point Ohtani claims he didn’t know money was missing nor did he know about the gambling taking place.

During the interview between the spokesperson, Mizuhara, and ESPN, the interpreter claims “Ohtani wasn’t happy about [the debt]” and “decided to pay it off.” However, the next day in a separate interview, Mizuhara retracts everything he previously told ESPN and completely flips the script saying Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debt nor did he authorize the payments. Mizuhara was fired after the Dodgers learned about the alleged theft of roughly $4.5 million.

Ohtani held a press conference Monday where he made it clear that he had no involvement in the gambling nor did he authorize the payments. The star Japanese player expressed feelings of betrayal saying “On a personal note, I’m very sad and shocked that someone who I’ve trusted has done this.”

There’s been so many contradicting statements, it’s hard to see what is true and who to believe. The MLB has opened up an investigation into what exactly has happened and Shohei shared that he is cooperating with officials. If Ohtani is found guilty, then he will face the commissioner’s penalty, which has yet to be determined.

 According to the MLB, “players, umpires or any league or team official or employee cannot bet on any baseball game, regardless if they are directly connected to it. If one bets on a game not connected to themselves, a one-year suspension would be enforced. If a bettor is connected to the game in question, they would receive a permanent suspension. Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee who places bets with illegal bookmakers, or agents for illegal bookmakers, shall be subject to such penalty as the Commissioner deems appropriate in light of the facts and circumstances of the conduct.” Mizuhara and Ohtani both claimed they never bet on baseball. 

Pete Rose, former Cincinnati Reds manager and player, has been banned from baseball for life since 1989 after he placed multiple bets while managing and playing with the Reds from 1985-1987. Rose doesn’t seem to buy that Ohani’s interpreter was the only one gambling and in a short video says “I wish I would have had an interpreter, I’d be scott-free” implying that Mizuhara is taking the fall for the Japanese superstar.

With the regular season starting up soon and an open investigation, it’s hard not to think of what this means for Ohtani’s legacy or if it’ll distract the Dodgers from playing the game. The Dodgers were a force to be reckoned with before signing Ohtani and while their starting lineup looks a bit scary with his name on it, it’s not going to be such a huge deal if he had to step away for a bit.

The MLB has already changed rules to accommodate Ohtani so it’s also hard to say if this investigation is going to be about exposing the truth or if it’ll just be swept under the rug to protect “the unicorn of baseball.”