Shohei Ohtani’s former manager casts more doubt on alleged gambling scandal

Shohei Ohtani's former manager Joe Maddon had an intriguing take on Ippei Mizuhara's gambling scandal.

Los Angeles Angels v Detroit Tigers
Los Angeles Angels v Detroit Tigers / Mark Cunningham/GettyImages

From 2020 until the middle of the 2022 season, Joe Maddon and Shohei Ohtani worked side by side with the Los Angeles Angels. In fact, Ippei Mizuhara was a member of that staff as well. While the Angels team failed to meet expectations, Ohtani became an international superstar, making two All-Star teams and winning the first of his multiple MVPs.

So, what went wrong? Ohtani wants to win. He's a competitor. Maddon was eventually fired and Ohtani left for what he hopes are greener pastures with the Dodgers.

However, Ohtani's stint in Los Angeles didn't get off to a smooth start off the field, as he split with Mizuhara after Ippei allegedly stole millions from Ohtani to pay off his gambling debts. Maddon has watched this all develop from afar, and is heartbroken the two good friends had a falling out.

“When I read all this, heard all this, I just did not want to believe any of it,” Maddon told Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville on the latest edition of our Starkville podcast. “The fact that Ippei would be disloyal to Shohei was, like, really a thought that I could not even fathom and never even imagined. … And I was upset. I was viscerally upset about the whole thing.”

Joe Maddon believes Shohei a point

Ohtani's had a tough time getting his story straight. Initially his representatives told ESPN that Ohtani voluntarily paid off Mizuhara's debts. Then, Ohtani's legal team got involved and altered the take: Mizuhara stole those funds, and Ohtani was not made aware. Ohtani's team, from his agent to his lawyers to the player himself, prefer to keep his public life out of the limelight.

Ohtani has stuck to his story since -- that Mizuhara stole the money from him and lied about it -- and Maddon believes that's plausible. Interpreters tend to have very close relationships with their clients, even helping them outside of the ballpark, such as with stressful financial conversations. Ippei could have had access to at least one of Ohtani's bank accounts.

"So it was 'easily' conceivable to him, Maddon said, “that Shohei would rely on Ippei to handle, like, daily bill paying. … So that, to me, is not a reach by any means. The part that I don’t quite understand is the fact that, especially when you talk about those ($4.5 million) numbers, if they are accurate, that the agency would not have known about that.”

As Maddon mentions, Ohtani's agency is essentially Big Brother. They maintain his relationships, both on and off the field. They limit his media availability and negotiate his funds. How could they not notice that $4.5 million just went missing?

It's yet another question that needs answered from Ohtani's team.

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