Attempting to process the Ippei Mizuhara/Shohei Ohtani events

(Photo: Cody Bashore)

You probably noticed that we haven’t covered this week’s breaking news at Dodgers Digest. This isn’t due to a lack of effort or an attempt to diminish the importance, it’s just a difficult story to cover from a fan perspective. Two days later, it’s still utterly baffling.

As of this writing we don’t know much more than we did on Wednesday — that the Dodgers have fired Shohei Ohtani‘s long-time interpreter and friend Ippei Mizuhara due to his alleged connection to illegal sports bets placed in Orange County. Ohtani’s name is alleged to be on multiple wire transfers to Mizuhara’s alleged bookmaker Matthew Bowyer, and the presence of Ohtani’s name is the source of a legal dispute with conflicting accounts. Ohtani’s lawyers are claiming that he was the victim of “massive theft.” Mizuhara initially claimed in an interview with ESPN that Ohtani loaned him the money to pay off his debts (which would implicate Ohtani in a federal crime), but he has since walked back that story.

The information in the above paragraph feels like it’s specifically designed to overload a fan’s brain. After the Los Angeles Times and ESPN stories were published in quick succession on Wednesday afternoon, I just stared at my screen for a few hours, repeating some variation of “what the fuck?” over and over. It’s still impossible to fathom that the events leading up to this situation could occur. There really hasn’t been any clarification in the following 48 hours, either.


The goal of this post isn’t to outline the scenarios in play here. This article by Craig Calcaterra, a former lawyer and current baseball writer, does this far better than we ever could here. Another good resource is this article by CBS Sports’ Kate Feldman, which digs into what sort of legal trouble Ohtani may find himself in as a result of these events, particularly if the “good guy Shohei was helping with his friend’s crisis, not knowing it was a crime” hypothetical turns out to be true. (Spoiler: It’s not great!)

Instead, the aim of this post is to attempt to process the events of the last couple days from the perspective of a Dodger fan, or at least as far as one can at this point (it’s still so difficult). So far, my brain is splitting this up into three sets of information.


Fact 1: We don’t know all the facts

This whole thing still feels like it’s one puzzle piece away from actually making logical sense. Somewhere out there, that information exists. The odds that we’ll actually receive that information any time soon seem slim. This process could drag out over an extended period of time — Yasiel Puig‘s sports betting case is still pending trial despite the news breaking in late 2022 — and several of the parties involved are incentivized to keep things as quiet as possible. This is already a media circus, and the Dodgers, Ohtani, and MLB all want to keep this from blowing up further than it already has, even if their silence could end up counterproductive. The “next Pete Rose” comparisons are disingenuous (in no version of the reported information is this remotely true), but they will continue as long as this legal process does.

Fact 2: Gambling addiction is a very serious condition

This is important to highlight. Gambling addiction is a destructive force which can permanently impact people’s lives. It is described as a disease in the DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s guide to diagnosing mental disorders. Reporting anything with respect to mental illness needs to be done with extreme care and respect. Speculation isn’t healthy and can often make a bad situation worse. The best thing to say here is that, if Mizuhara’s statements that he is suffering from this condition are true, hopefully he is now receiving the help and treatment he needs. This is not a situation for which joking is appropriate.

Fact 3: This sucks

Given the scale of this story, the “what this feels like as a Dodger fan” aspect is pretty unimportant (particularly in relation to Fact 2), but it still exists; this has put a dark cloud over the start of the season. Along with many of you, I was up at 3 AM on Wednesday, excited by the idea of seeing Ohtani’s debut. I giggled when he hit a 119 MPH foul ball and smiled when he got his first hit and steal in blue. “We get a whole decade of this? That’s incredible!” was the prevailing thought, one which was constant since he signed in December.

24 hours later, the same mood was not present for game two. Everything felt different. One can’t help but think about how Yoshinobu Yamamoto‘s on-field translator getting fired six hours before his MLB debut could have hurt his ability to focus and lock back in as he started to struggle. It was also difficult to see Ohtani sitting mostly alone in the dugout after what had unfolded earlier in the day. No matter how it happened, the thought of these two previously-inseparable friends having some sort of falling out centered around a mental illness is crushingly sad.

From a fan’s perspective, it has dampened what is supposed to be the most exciting time of year. We waited five long months, but the idea of baseball being a constant in our lives again is usually one of the best feelings in the world. Now it isn’t. I will still watch the stateside opener, and it will still make me happy, but it won’t be the same. It won’t be the same for a while.


When Ohtani announced that he was married a few weeks ago, he stated that one of his key motivations for releasing the information was that he didn’t want it to be a distraction during the season. So much for that. Now the Dodgers have the mother of all distractions. There has rarely been a more distracting distraction. This situation is going to occupy most of what I can think about as a fan for a long time, and it’s probably going to be worse for the players (godspeed, Dave Roberts). It’s just a terrible situation all around, and it’s not going away any time soon.

About Daniel Brim

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Daniel Brim grew up in the Los Angeles area but doesn't live there anymore. He still watches the Dodgers and writes about them sometimes.