Johnny Damon Opens Up on ‘Really Tough Call’ With Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani

It was supposed to be a dream scenario for Shohei Ohtani in his first year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After signing a record, 10-year, 700-million dollar contract with a World Series frontrunner, he got married in February and was the talk of the game as the 2024 season was dawning.


However, the California skies have gotten cloudier for the 29-year-old Japanese star. On the field, the pitcher/designated hitter has been hailed as the best two-way player since the legendary Babe Ruth. But away from the diamond, he’s become caught up in a bizarre gambling controversy – thanks largely to his longtime personal translator, Ippei Mizuhara.


Mizuhara had been Ohtani’s translator since his debut in 2018 with the Los Angeles Angels. That is, until March 20 – just eight days before the start of the season – when the Dodgers fired Mizuhara after the two-time MVP‘s representatives accused him of “massive theft” to repay debts owed to a bookmaker.  Ohtani has publicly claimed that he didn’t know about the missing funds or Mizuhara’s connections to the gambling world.


“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies,” Ohtani stated through a different interpreter. “I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker.”


Major League Baseball is currently investigating the situation.


Johnny Damon Shares Thoughts on the Shohei Ohtani Situation


Former New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon offered some thoughts on what’s currently going on with Shohei Ohtani, the Dodgers, and Major League Baseball.


In an April 2 interview with Outkick on the “Don’t @ Me with Dan Dakich” podcast, the former two-time World Series champion expressed skepticism that Ohtani wouldn’t know what was happening, regarding Mizuhara. He cited the incredible amount of money the former employee allegedly stole from the Dodgers’ megastar.


“Well, having $4.5 million stolen from you – I would think he would notice it,” Damon said. “I just think he’s just too big for baseball. This is something that nobody wants to deal with, especially at the start of a brand-new baseball season. This is a really tough call for everybody.”



Later in the interview, the former two-time All-Star also stated that he believed Pete Rose, suspended for life in 1989 by then-commissioner Bart Giamatti, should be allowed into the Hall of Fame.


Despite being MLB‘s all-time leader in hits with 4,256, Rose’s banishment from the game has precluded his induction in Cooperstown.


“I still believe Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame,” Damon stated. “This is a big gambling issue. But there’s gambling sites everywhere now. It’s what’s fueling the sports world right now. It’s one of those things where everyone else can do it, but you can’t. Who knows the extent of what (the interpreter) bet on.”


Ohtani Scandal Casts a Shadow on Start of the 2024 MLB Season


The Dodgers entered 2024 as the favorites to win this year’s World Series, after signing both Ohtani and another international import, Japanese pitching legend Yoshinobu Yamamoto.


For Shohei Ohtani, collecting a ring was his ultimate focus entering this year, having never even appeared in the Fall Classic, despite being one of the game’s top stars for several years. His unique combination of skills has been marveled at by fans, the media, and his fellow players.


“When he hits batting practice, everyone watches.” – Freddie Freeman on Shohei Ohtani




With the news of this scandal, the focus has shifted to what MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred will do to further monitor gambling. No evidence has been made public yet that would indicate Ohtani was implicated in the scandal, and multiple reports have stated that he’s not currently expected to face punishment.


The story didn’t seem to shake Ohtani up, however. He started his 2024 campaign by collecting two hits and a walk in the Dodgers’ 7-1 opening-day win against the St. Louis Cardinals.



Gideon Canice

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