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Swanson: Not the start to Shohei Ohtani era that Dodgers expected

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LOS ANGELES — Well, glad that’s all cleared up.

On Monday, the world’s greatest baseball player told a room full of reporters what his lawyers already stated on his behalf: Ippei Mizuhara has been stealing and lying and Shohei Ohtani – who, himself, never bet on sports – didn’t know anything about his former interpreter and friend’s alleged betting on sports through an illegal bookmaker.

“I’m looking forward to focusing on the season,” Ohtani said, via the Dodgers’ interpreter Will Ireton, before a preseason game at Dodger Stadium against the Angels, his former team. “I’m glad that we had this opportunity to talk.”

Sure, good talk, Shohei. Don’t know what we learned from it definitively, except that this man really is one cool customer.

Calm at the plate or on the mound in the clutch – and behind a mic in the face of a whole new sort of scrutiny.

Ohtani sat calmly for nearly 12 minutes and delivered semi-prepared remarks to a crowd of close to 100 reporters without taking questions, leaving us unable to do much more than channel Larry David when he goes all lie detector, the comedian using the stare-down as means of determining the veracity of people’s claims.

Are you sure I’m not adopted? That I didn’t tip you twice? That you didn’t take the dog? That you didn’t know about $4.5 million wired from your bank account to an illegal bookie? Are you sure???



Ohtani stared right back at us. Didn’t fidget or stutter or stumble. Didn’t blink.

So, yeah. OK.

What can you do but shrug, nod and let the investigations – Major League Baseball’s and law enforcement’s – go on.

Nod, wait and watch as the Dodgers try to take back the narrative of what was to be a monumental season of delicious, high-stakes, on-field villainy before last week’s allegations served to curb enthusiasm so dramatically.

All the ways this Dodgers season could go – good, bad, ugly or sideways, upside down – betcha didn’t have this particular loop on your bingo card.

This is not what anyone envisioned when the Dodgers won the Ohtani sweepstakes, signing him to a historic $700 million, 10-year contract – and bringing aboard Mizuhara with him, the two a package deal.

The Dodgers expected the Japanese sensation, a unicorn for his rare combination of elite pitching and hitting exploits, would help propel them toward the World Series championship they’re so desperate for – while bolstering their global brand.

Instead, they’ve got a scandal that was, until last week, unthinkable for the famously private superstar.

His dog’s name (Dekopin, or Decoy) was, for weeks, a mystery. His marriage came as a total surprise. He wouldn’t divulge any details about his Tommy John surgery.

So it was jarring to hear him speak on the record Monday about how “very saddened and shocked” he was, how hurt he was that someone who’d been a trusted confidante was allegedly stealing from him and lying about him.

It wasn’t nearly as shocking that he didn’t take questions. Ohtani could be the main witness in a criminal case, his lawyers wouldn’t want him trying to explain to us how it could have gone unnoticed that he’d allegedly had millions of his dollars wired out? Or how Mizuhara allegedly could have arranged it? How long he allegedly could have been getting away with it? Why Mizuhara’s story evolved so much and so rapidly?

They wouldn’t want him to say more about this: “Ippei has been telling everybody around that Ippei has been communicating with Shoehei on all of this account, to my representative, to the team, and that hasn’t been true.”

Or about his assertion that the first time he learned of these allegations was while Mizuhara addressed the team in the clubhouse after the Dodgers’ first game in South Korea last week – in English.

“So during the team meeting, obviously Ippei was speaking in English, and I didn’t have a translator on my side – but even with that, I kind of understood what was going on and started to feel that there was something amiss,” Ohtani said.

So Ohtani was basically the last to know? Are we sure?

The only thing we’re actually sure of: This isn’t how the Dodgers’ season was supposed to start.

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