He Said It Ain’t Shoh

Carp all you like about his disinclination to take questions afterward. But don't ever make the mistake again of mentioning Shohei Ohtani in the same breath, maybe the same pages, as Pete Rose.

However long it took since the uproar first roared, accompanied by his new interpreter, Will Ireton, Ohtani delivered a statement saying no, he didn't bet on baseball, never has, and by the way isn't all that much for sports gambling, anyway. That was the easier part for him.

The harder part for him was Ohtani saying he believed his now-former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, flat stole from him. For a fleeting few moments, Ohtani looked like the poor soul who came home from work early and discovered his children incinerated his house.

Maybe you don't remember without the help of assorted books about it or about the man, but Rose wasn't that candid when he was first put under baseball's microscope for gambling. Knowing full well that he was guilty of everything the game's formal investigation was going to expose...

He lied through his teeth. He attacked and smeared those who sought the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. He threw associates under the proverbial bus who'd aided and abetted his longtime bookie gambling up to and including the April-May 1986 period when he began betting on baseball itself and the Reds for whom he still played as well as managed.

That was before the 1989 ruling from commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti that sent him into baseball's Phantom Zone on the grounds he'd violated Rule 21(d) up and down.

Ohtani last Monday didn't try to throw anyone under the proverbial bus. Mizuhara already threw himself there, between his clumsy initial responses when the uproar erupted and the discovery that he'd been anything but entirely honest in the past regarding some of his academic and professional credentials.

But Ohtani didn't say this was all a figment of somebody's perverse imagination. He didn't deflect. He added almost as flatly that he was cooperating with any and all investigations into Mizhuara's activities, including Mizuhara's betting on sports through an Orange County, California bookmaker, in violation of California law which doesn't allow sports betting of any kind in the state.

We still don't know just how Mizuhara was able to pay off that SoCal bookie. We still don't know for certain just how he might have lifted over four million of Ohtani's dollars to do it. Ohtani himself hasn't suggested how, which may or may not be an indication that he'd sooner run head first into a lava pit than throw Mizuhara all the way under that proverbial bus.

But Ohtani wouldn't be the first sports or entertainment figure to be fleeced by someone close to him, either. You want to ask how Mizuhara ripped him off? It might prove to be simpler than you suspect.

A few music legends could tell you. Billy Joel sued his former manager (and former brother-in-law) Frank Weber for $90 million in damages in 1989, accusing Weber of diverting millions of Joel's dollars into his own other interests. Weber filed for bankruptcy and the pair had to settle out of court. The Piano Man reportedly retrieved only $8 million.

Sting was relieved of about $7.4 million (six million British pounds, if you're scoring) by his longtime advisor Keith Moore — who's said to have used fake investments abroad to send that money into his own purse.

Alanis Morissette was cleaned out of $4.8 million by her business manager, one Jonathan Schwartz, whom she accused of moving her money straight into his own account. Schwartz landed six years behind bars for such movements.

A few ballplayers could, too. Baseball and other sports were littered long enough before the Ohtani-Mizuhara mess with stories of players robbed almost blind by advisors, by lawyers, even by relatives.

Both the FBI and the IRS are on the trails of Mizhuara and the bookie in question, Mathew Bowyer. "I do want to make it clear," Ohtani said near the end of his statement, "that I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker." If those investigations prove to support Ohtani's contentions, Mizhuara will be buried alive in federal charges and likely to spend more years that he might like to count behind federal bars.

This entire noise should also prod MLB teams to vet their interpreters even more closely. It's not impossible that those engaged by other teams for other foreign-born players might also be taking advantage of their proximities to their charges. Or would you like to discover this Yankee or that Astro or that other Cub or that Ranger, Brave, Met, Oriole, or Phillie yonder being ripped off Ohtani-like by their interpreters?

From the moment the hoopla began over the Ohtani-Mizhuara mess, there's been quite the rush to presume the Dodgers' $700 million man guilty. The early communication clumsiness of it all didn't help, but now that Ohtani's legal beagles have things under reasonable control it should be simpler to say and stand upon: Find and show the evidence if it exists that Ohtani's anything other than a slightly surrealistic victim.

Until or unless real evidence shows, one and all otherwise should cork it. And stop raising Pete Rose's name as if this mess means Rose (against whom there was a convoy worth of evidence) finally gets his get-out-of-baseball-jail-free card.

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