Opening Day Scandal: Is Shohei Ohtani Our Generation’s Pete Rose?

Opening Day Scandal: Is Shohei Ohtani Our Generation’s Pete Rose?

What on earth is going on in LA? In a bombshell exclusive last week, ESPN reported that an account under the name of Shohei Ohtani made a $4.5 million wire transfer to an illegal bookmaking operation under surveillance by the FBI. At first it seemed as though this story would be about his best friend/interpreter Ippei Mizuhara’s gambling addiction and Ohtani’s generosity helping out his friend. However, a week into this scandal that does not seem to be the case anymore. Buckle up, here is the wild story of potentially our generation’s Pete Rose.

Ippei and Ohtani have been inseparable since Ohtani signed with the Angels to start his MLB career. As his assigned interpreter, Ippei was the gatekeeper both in conversations with the media and the team. The duo built a close relationship over the years, with the two vacationing with family and as Ohtani signed his record breaking $700 million deal with the Dodgers this past offseason, Ippei was immediately signed as an employee with the Dodgers. From the outside looking in, Ippei appeared to have life made. A six-figure salary to translate and travel with the best player in baseball. Sign me up for that job every day of the week. All you gotta do is A) don’t break the law and B) in any way don’t engage in any sort of gray area sports gambling. Honestly, with the money and influence Ohtani possesses, “A” could probably be swept under the rug. But gambling with an illegal bookmaker under FBI surveillance. Come on now.

Initially, it was reported that Ippei racked up the $4.5 million in gambling debt on bets such as live late night table tennis (true degenerate behavior). In his first interview with ESPN that was coordinated by an official spokesperson for Ohtani, Ippei claimed Ohtani was aware of his gambling debts and as his friend offered to take care of his debt. Ippei goes on to say he was in the room as Ohtani personally transferred the funds to the bookmaker. When pushed as to why Ohtani made the transaction himself as opposed to giving Ippei the funds to cover his debt, the exact quote from Ippei to ESPN reads, “He didn’t want me to gamble it away.”

Okay so that’s the story right? Degenerate gambler has a rich friend cover his massive debts, Ippei goes to rehab and stories regarding Ohtani go back to discussing his generational play on the diamond.

Nope. This is where we take a hard right turn into crazy town.

One day after Ippei spoke with ESPN and right before the article was to break, Ohtani’s camp hired a new crisis PR team and law firm. Ohtani’s new camp and Ippei then go on record again to say Ohtani “has been the victim of massive theft.” Ippei then goes on to contradict his statement from the previous day saying Ohtani had no knowledge of his debt and Ohtani did not personally transfer the funds. Clearly, Ippei doesn't understand what “on-the-record” means.

Taking this all into account, red flags are popping up in my head like a five-alarm fire. Let’s speculate here for a second. Throughout this whole saga, the Dodgers were playing in MLB’s opening series in South Korea against the Padres. Highly publicized and covered by media from across the world. As the story was developing, Ippei and Ohtani were photographed in the dugout seemingly as if it was another day at the office. I mean come on, you expect us to believe that if your best friend stole millions from you and they’re joking around in the dugout afterwards.

Most glaring in my opinion is the total amount of debt Ippei supposedly racked up. Most of these underground bookmaking operations operate on a credit basis. If you believe that anyone would float $4.5 million to an individual that makes $200k a year, I’ve got oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you.

You know who would be floated $4.5 million to gamble with? Perhaps an individual that just signed the biggest contract in MLB history. What does track in this situation is a middleman scenario in which Ippei placed bets for Ohtani. That would explain the response to the initial quotes response which the professional law and crisis PR firms hired after the original interview immediately sought to correct by saying Ohtani had no knowledge or involvement.

Ohtani has a scheduled press conference today to address the scandal which hopefully will shed more light onto this wild turn of events. Hopefully, MLB’s golden child will be vindicated but there is a possibility of a Pete Rose type scandal brewing on the horizon. Does Commissioner Rob Manfred have the cojones to ban the most well-known player worldwide? Stay tuned, this could be the MLB story of the year.