Everything Dodgers fans need to know about Shohei Ohtani interpreter allegations

2024 Seoul Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres
2024 Seoul Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres / Masterpress/GettyImages

You probably won't hear Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser mention it during today's Dodgers broadcast against the Padres, but after yesterday's developments, it's impossible to look at Shohei Ohtani and not wonder what the hell must be going on in his brain. That may not be a new question — Ohtani is an inscrutable guy — but after new, very confusing revelations about longtime translator and friend Ippei Mizuhara, it feels more prescient than ever before.

Yesterday, after the Dodgers' first game of the season in Seoul, it was reported the team fired Mizuhara, alleging that he participated in a sports betting and bookkeeping operation that is now under investigation by the federal government. An internal Dodgers investigation began when reporters started asking about a $4.5 million wire transfer from Ohtani's bank account to a bookmaker.

Tisha Thompson of ESPN dropped a massive report yesterday evening which lays out everything we know so far. Here, we'll attempt to simplify everything and dispel a few misconceptions along the way.

What you need to know about Dodgers firing of Shohei Ohtani interpreter Ippei Mizuhara

Here's what seems to be the general timeline of events over the past few days. Although Mizuhara was in the Dodgers dugout during Wednesday's game, Thompson wrote that ESPN conducted a 90-minute interview with him on Tuesday after being offered up by Ohtani's representatives. After the game the next day, knowing that a story would be coming, Mizuhara told the Dodgers clubhouse about his gambling addiction and took full accountability. ESPN's report was released later that day, but it ended up detailing a lot more than Mizuhara's account.

Mizuhara told ESPN that he placed bets on "the NBA, the NFL and college football" (but never baseball, he insisted) with the bookmaker Mathew Bowyer, who is currently under federal investigation as sports betting is illegal in California. They met at a poker game in 2021, Mizuhara started betting with Bowyer on credit, and he quickly started losing money. He told ESPN that he originally revealed his gambling problem to Ohtani last year, and Ohtani agreed to pay off his debts for him, which would explain why Ohtani's name was on two separate $500,000 wire transfers to Bowyer last year.

That seemed like the end of the story, but, following the interview with Mizuhara, Ohtani's camp then gave their own statement to ESPN to refute some of Mizuhara's claims. This is where things get wrinkly. Ohtani spokespeople said that he had been the victim of theft, and Mizuhara even amended his story to insist that Ohtani never knew about his gambling activities and had not made the transfers personally.

To say that this is strange would be an understatement. Neither Mizuhara nor Ohtani are under investigation by state or federal authorities, but there will undoubtedly be more journalistic investigation, at the very least, into the true extent of Ohtani's involvement.

Will Ireton, the Dodgers' performance operations manager who came to the team as Kenta Maeda's interpreter, will fill in as Ohtani's interim translator.

What does Mizuhara's firing mean for Ohtani?

After news broke yesterday, the court of public opinion also had its say. Some fans brought up a clause in Ohtani's Dodgers contract which said he could opt out if certain personnel changes are made within the organization and wondered, erroneously, if firing Mizuhara was somehow a calculated effort to get out of his contract after only one game. This was clarified quickly — that clause refers to Andrew Friedman and controlling owner Mark Walter, which Ohtani confirmed in his introductory press conference.

The real questions are around the extent to which Ohtani knew about Mizuhara's activities. Multiple sources insisted that Ohtani did not gamble. However, given MLB's strict ban on illegal gambling, subject to "punishment at the commissioner's discretion," it won't be at all surprising if MLB looks into the matter themselves.

This is very much a developing story, and no doubt we'll get more details soon. Suffice to say, this is a shocking turn of events that will color not only the rest of the Seoul Series, but at least the first few months of the Dodgers' season as well.