Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and the Dodgers might want to rethink having “Betts-Ohtani” batting 1-2 in their lineup.

Well, that was an unexpected few days. In case you were vacationing in Atlantis, Shohei Ohtani was linked to controversy. Ohtani said his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, allegedly owed millions to a bookie, and the debt was paid off using funds from Ohtani’s bank account.

Let’s look at a quick timeline, recapping reporting from The Times and ESPN.

Monday, March 18: ESPN contacts Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, and asks about Ohtani’s name appearing on two wire transfers totaling $1 million. The transfers were sent last September and October to alleged illegal bookie Mathew Bowyer. A crisis-communications spokesman for Ohtani hours later says Ohtani paid the debts on behalf of Mizuhara. He says Balelo, the agent, went to Mizuhara, who “finally came clean to him and said that was the truth,” and that Ohtani told Balelo he had covered Mizuhara’s debts in $500,000 increments. The spokesman quotes Ohtani as saying: “‘Yeah, I sent several large payments. That’s the maximum amount I could send.’”

Tuesday, March 19: Mizuhara speaks with an ESPN reporter by phone from South Korea. He says he met Bowyer at a poker game in San Diego in 2021 and started betting with Bowyer on credit shortly after they met, but not on baseball. He says he didn’t know Bowyer’s operation was illegal. Mizuhara says his debt ballooned to $4 million by early 2023 and that’s when he went to Ohtani for help. “I explained my situation,” he said. “And obviously he wasn’t happy about it, but he said he would help me.” Asked if Ohtani knew the person [Mizuhara] owed the money to was a bookie, Mizuhara says his friend “didn’t have any clue.” Mizuhara says the two of them logged into Ohtani’s bank account and sent eight or nine transactions, each at $500,000, over several months. Mizuhara says he told Ohtani that he would pay back the money and that Ohtani “thinks gambling is terrible. He sees that people, teammates would be gambling all the time, and he’ll be like, ‘Why are they doing this? Gambling is not good.’ He would make comments like that. People would ask him to go to casinos on road trips, and he would never go. No, he’s not into it.”

Wednesday, March 20: After the season opener against the Padres, the Dodgers hold a meeting in the clubhouse. Mizuhara apologized for negative stories about to be published and told the team he has a gambling addiction. ESPN reported Andrew Friedman said Ohtani helped cover Mizuhara’s losses. On the way back to the hotel, Ohtani starts asking questions about what had been said in the clubhouse, Ohtani said, and that’s when his representatives say Ohtani told them he didn’t recognize Mizuhara’s version of the events. According to the Dodgers official and Ohtani’s spokesman, Ohtani’s representatives had continued to rely on Mizuhara to communicate with Ohtani while they were dealing with the situation and Mizuhara did not tell Ohtani what was happening. According to the Ohtani spokesman, Ohtani discovers for the first time Wednesday that money is missing from his account.

—The Times was the first to report that Ohtani’s representatives accused Mizuhara of “massive theft” and said the star had no knowledge of the interpreter’s gambling debt. Ohtani’s representatives said they planned to report the theft to law enforcement but did not specify which agency.

—Ohtani’s spokesman advises ESPN not to publish its story. “Ippei was lying,” he says. “Shohei didn’t know.”

—Later Wednesday, Ohtani’s lawyers issue a statement to ESPN: “In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities.”

—The Dodgers fire Mizuhara.

—Mizuhara tells ESPN he lied in his previous interview and says Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling activities, debts or efforts to repay them. “Obviously, this is all my fault, everything I’ve done,” he says. “I’m ready to face all the consequences.”

Thursday, March 21: Ohtani’s representatives say they have submitted the allegation to law enforcement. The Associated Press confirms that Mizuhara and Bowyer are under criminal investigation by the IRS through the agency’s Los Angeles Field Office. Mizuhara could not be reached for comment, while the Dodgers and Ohtani’s representatives declined to answer follow-up questions about the issue.

Friday, March 22: MLB announces it “has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara from the news media. Earlier today, our Department of Investigations [DOI] began their formal process investigating the matter.” None of the reported bets have been tied to baseball, but the use of an illegal bookie is a violation of MLB’s gambling policy. Punishment is at the discretion of the commissioner and can include a fine or suspension.

Monday, March 25: Ohtani speaks publicly about the situation for the first time (Transcript is below).

What Ohtani said on Monday as interpreted by his new interpreter, Will Ireton:

“First of all, thank you very much for coming. I want to be here today to be able to talk. I’m sure it was very tough. It’s been a tough week for fans and team officials. And I’m very grateful that the media has been patient in this process. Just on a personal note, I’m very sad and shocked that someone I’ve trusted has done this.

“Obviously, today there’s things that I’m limited and being able to talk about, I hope you understand. I do have a document in front of me that I will refer to that will detail what has happened.

“I never bet on … sports or never have asked somebody to do on my behalf. And I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports.

“Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know that this was happening.

“Just to kind of just go over the result. In conclusion, Ippei has been stealing money from my account, and has told lies.

“Last weekend in Korea, media reached out to a representative in my camp. inquiring about my potential involvement in sports betting. Ippei never revealed to me that there was this media inquiry, and to the representatives to my camp, he told — Ippei told to the media and to my representatives that I, you know, on behalf of a friend paid off debt.

“Upon further questioning it was revealed that it was actually in fact Ippei who was in debt, and told my representatives that I was paying off those debts. All of this has been a complete lie.

“Ippei obviously lied about, you know, basically didn’t tell me about the media inquiry. Ippei has been telling everybody around that he has been communicating with Shohei on all of this account to my representative and to the team, and that hasn’t been true.

“The first time I knew about Ippei’s gambling was during the after the first game [March 20 in South Korea] when we had a team meeting in the clubhouse. During the team meeting, obviously Ippei was speaking English and I didn’t have a translator on my side. But even with that, I kinda understood what was going on and started to feel that there was something amiss.

“Prior to the meeting, I was told by Ippei, let’s talk one-to-one in the hotel after the meeting. So I waited until then. Up until that team meeting, I didn’t know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt.

“Obviously I never agreed to pay off the debt or you know, make payments to the bookmaker. Finally, when we went back to the hotel, and talked one-to-one, that was when I was when I found out that he had a massive debt.

“It was revealed to me during that meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money using my account to the bookmaker. Obviously I was it was an absurd thing that was happening, and I contacted my representatives at that point. When I was finally able to talk to my representatives, that’s when my representatives found out that they had been lying the whole time. And that’s when I started contacting the Dodgers and my lawyers. The Dodgers and the lawyers at that moment, found out also as well that they had been lied to.

“My lawyers recommended that, since this is theft and fraud, that that we have the proper authorities handle this matter. In conclusion, I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports, or had willfully sent money to the bookmaker.

“To summarize how I’m feeling right now I’m just beyond shock. It’s really hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point. The season is going to start, and I’m going to obviously let my lawyers handle matters from here on out and I am completely assisting in all investigations that are taking place right now.

“I’m looking forward to focusing on the season. I’m glad that we had this opportunity to talk and I’m sure there will be continuing investigations moving forward. Thank you very much.”

Note to readers: One small phrase was removed from Ireton’s translation because it did not match what The Times directly translated from Ohtani’s remarks in Japanese. Our policy is not to repeat any errors, even when providing a transcript for readers.

So what does all this mean?

It has been interesting to watch all this unfold. By Ohtani going days without saying anything, it created a void. And rumors and conspiracies helped fill it. It has run the gamut from “Ohtani is 100% innocent and was just trying to help a friend” to “Ohtani makes Pete Rose look like a choirboy.” There have been members of the mainstream media who have written lengthy articles comparing Ohtani to Rose, which is way too premature. But judging people before the facts are in seems to be the American way, especially in the age of social media.

It seems to me there are four possibilities.

1. Ohtani helped his friend pay off a massive debt without knowing it went to a bookie.

2. Ohtani helped his friend pay off a massive debt without knowing who it went to.

3. Mizuhara stole money from Ohtani to pay off his debts.

4. Ohtani was the one gambling.

Coincidentally, during the last month or so I’ve been reading a lot about Richard Nixon. A couple of biographies, along with “All the Presidents Men” and “The Final Days” by Woodward and Bernstein. So my mind is primed for coverups and conspiracies. In other words, “What did Ohtani know and when did he know it?”

Some people who know Ohtani have come forward to say he is entirely focused on his career and knows little about other sports, making betting unlikely. He’s at the stadium early and late and is never rushing to a phone (the way Rose was) to check on how his bets were doing. It seems extremely unlikely he is the new Pete Rose. It seems extremely unlikely that he was the one actually betting.

Despite what some are saying online, it’s entirely possible for someone, especially someone as close to Ohtani as Mizuhara was, to steal from his account without Ohtani’s knowledge. It has happened many times to people, including other athletes and celebrities. That doesn’t make Mizuhara guilty, it just means that it can happen easier than some people think. Even here, there are a couple of mysteries. If he stole the money, how did Mizuhara have access to Ohtani’s account? Who is overseeing Ohtani’s finances where nine separate withdrawals of $500,000 escaped their attention? Is there anyone overseeing his finances? Ohtani makes at least $40 million a year from endorsements alone. How you handle that kind of money is very different than you or I depositing our paycheck into a bank account. So there are some things we just don’t understand about how wealthy people handle their money.

Then there’s the idea that, “There’s no way a bookie lets an interpreter run up a tab of at least $4.5 million.” I’m sorry, but everything you learned from “The Sopranos” and “Hill Street Blues” does not necessarily translate to the real world. If Mizuhara was paying off his debts every few months, then it’s possible. It wasn’t a $4.5 million payoff at one time, it was a series of smaller ($500,000 each) payoffs.

It also appears Mizuhara has had a tendency to exaggerate things in the past, such as saying he graduated from UC Riverside when the school has no record of him attending.

What it really comes down to is this: Do you believe Ohtani? If you do, then he was the victim of theft. If you don’t, then you have to ask yourself why? Is the evidence he is lying compelling, or is it a case of wanting the more exciting angle to be true? For me, I’ll wait until all investigations are complete. But the sad fact is, no matter the outcome, many people have already made up their mind. “Ohtani was gambling!” “Ohtani is innocent!” And nothing will change their mind.

And keep in mind, in a fast-moving story like this one, some of the above questions could have been answered by the time you read this. Keep your eye on latimes.com/sports for the latest news and follow our Ohtani story gallery here.

The other problem could be on the field. Will this be a distraction for Ohtani? Will his hitting suffer? Will his teammates grow tired of having to answer questions because Ohtani goes into media hiding? After the second game in South Korea, two of the Dodgers public relations personnel stood watch while Ohtani changed, then Ohtani was escorted away from media access.

If there is one article or column out there that has its finger on the pulse of the matter, it’s this one by Dylan Hernández. Or, maybe this one.

Next

Don’t worry, every newsletter will not become “As the world of Shohei Ohtani turns.” We’ll only be covering major developments from here on out. It just seemed appropriate to bring everyone up to speed as I write this late Tuesday night.

Next, we will discuss the season opener and look at the season in tomorrow’s Dodgers Dugout. Friday or Saturday will be a newsletter devoted to the answers from Mike Scioscia. Then we go to our normal schedule of a new newsletter every time a new series starts, with occasional exceptions.

In case you missed it

Hernández: Gambling and theft allegations raise one big question. Who is Shohei Ohtani?

Dodgers players surprised by Shohei Ohtani’s composure: ‘Betrayal is hard’

Shohei Ohtani leaves unanswered questions after blaming his interpreter in gambling scandal

Shohei Ohtani says he never bet on sports in first remarks since Ippei Mizuhara accusations

Shohei Ohtani to speak Monday in wake of allegations against ex-interpreter

MLB investigating Shohei Ohtani and his former interpreter amid gambling allegations

What to know about the Shohei Ohtani interpreter gambling scandal

Who is Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter fired amid gambling accusations?

Hernández: Shohei Ohtani needs to grow up in the wake of Ippei Mizuhara revelations

Mookie Betts talks loss, Shohei Ohtani

Startled Dodgers move on after Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter accused of theft, gambling

And finally

Shohei Ohtani speaks at Monday’s news conference. Watch and listen here.

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