Press "Enter" to skip to content

Dodgers home opener overshadowed by Shohei Ohtani interpreter scandal

As the dust settles on spring training, the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally ready to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk as well.

After getting swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series last October, the Dodgers emerged as the victors when it came to the offseason champion.

In a matter of days, Los Angeles signed two-way sensation, and two-time unanimous American League MVP Shohei Ohtani, reigning Nippon Professional Baseball MVP and three-time Eiji Sawamura Award (equivalent of Cy Young Award) winner Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and an All-Star outfielder in Teoscar Hernandez.

If that wasn’t enough, they acquired a sensational starting pitcher in Tyler Glasnow, re-signed a future first-ballot Hall of Famer in Clayton Kershaw, as well as Jason Heyward, relief pitcher Joe Kelly, and super utility player Kiké Hernandez.

The hefty investments in each of these players exceeded $1.3 billion dollars, but it arms the Dodgers with a roster full of superstar talent and a powerhouse team that is destined to dominate the 2024 season.

Despite all the excitement, hope, and potential heading into the 2024 campaign, the Dodgers home opener at Chavez Ravine this Thursday afternoon is overshadowed by scandal.

When this new-look team takes the field for the first time in front of their home fans at Dodger Stadium, they will do so without one person who was there when they opened the season in Seoul, South Korea just one week prior.

Ohtani’s longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, who also acted as the Dodgers’ in-game interpreter for Yamamoto as well, was fired last Thursday after allegations that he committed a “massive theft,” by stealing millions from the MLB superstar.

The story has taken more twists and turns than a roller coaster, prompting Ohtani to hold a press conference on Tuesday in which he read a prepared statement and emphatically explained that he had “never bet on baseball or any other sports, or never asked somebody to do that on my behalf. And I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

The statement, as well as the accusations that his former interpreter stole $4.5 million from his bank accounts with nobody noticing, have only brought about more questions than answers, more scrutiny than solace.

The doubt, disbelief, and anxiety will hang over Dodger Stadium like a dark impenetrable cloud by the time first pitch is thrown at 1:10 PM and could dissipate slightly if Ohtani were to homer in his first at-bat.

It could take months before anything new comes out in this story. The full truth may never be revealed. Currently, there are multiple investigations into the matter, including by federal authorities and Major League Baseball.

In the meantime, the show will go on, the games will be played, and baseball will be back.

The Dodgers are the current betting favorites to win the World Series, but we’re a long way from October, and now is the perfect time to take a peek at what may come over the next seven months.

There’s no doubt about it, the Dodgers are a modern-day juggernaut. They have made the playoffs each of the last 11 seasons and won the N.L. West ten times. The year they didn’t win the west they tied a franchise record with 106 wins.

Last season, in what was supposed to be a down year for the Dodgers, they had a stellar year finishing with 100 wins and another N.L. West title. Needless to say, the bar has been set high.

Despite posting a franchise record 111 wins in 2022, 106 in 2021 and 2019, and a franchise record winning percentage of .717 in 2020, the Dodgers are projected to win 103 games by most sportsbooks in 2024.

That lower-than-expected number could be because outside of the Colorado Rockies, the N.L. West appears to be loaded this year. It could also be because the team has question marks at multiple positions defensively, and is still piecing the backend of their starting rotation together.

One thing we do know with absolute certainty is the Dodgers offense might be the best in the history of the game.

The projected lineup features three former MVPS starting 1-2-3 in Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Ohtani.

After that, it’s a revolving door of All-Stars featuring Will Smith, Max Muncy, Hernandez, and Heyward. Needless to say, that’s a lineup that is capable of wreaking havoc on any opposing pitching staff.

However, amidst the glitz and glamour of star power lies the reality of challenges ahead.

The transition of Betts to shortstop and the defensive concerns surrounding players like Max Muncy and Gavin Lux highlight potential areas of vulnerability. The infield defense, once a stronghold, now raises questions that must be addressed as the season unfolds.

Will Miguel Rojas take over at shortstop if Betts continues to struggle? Does that mean Betts would move back to right field or second base? Where does that leave the odd man out?

Turning to the pitching staff, the Dodgers boast a rotation filled with promise and potential. Led by Glasnow and bolstered by new additions like Yamamoto and James Paxton, the starting rotation seeks to improve upon last year’s paltry playoff performance.

Bobby Miller is back for his sophomore season, as are youngsters Gavin Stone, Michael Grove, and Emmet Sheehan.

Flame-throwing right-hander Walker Buehler is back from his second Tommy John surgery and is expected to rejoin the starting rotation at some point in the spring. Kershaw, and perhaps Dustin May could provide reinforcements sometime after the All-Star Break.

However, concerns linger regarding the durability of these starting pitchers, with injuries and recovery timelines casting a shadow of uncertainty on a rotation that could be among the best in the league if everyone regains their full strength and reaches their potential.

In the bullpen, names like Evan Phillips, Brusdar Graterol, and Joe Kelly instill confidence, backed by a solid track record from the previous season. The bullpen’s reliability will be crucial in supporting the rotation and maintaining momentum throughout the grueling 162-game season.

But let’s face it, all eyes will be on Ohtani as the best player in baseball embarks on his first season with the Dodgers, while simultaneously trying to navigate his off-the-field distractions.

Thankfully, Ohtani will only have to focus on one thing throughout the season, and that’s hitting.

After undergoing an elbow procedure in the offseason, Ohtani will be unable to pitch in 2024. As the everyday designated hitter for the Dodgers, he will be able to focus on opposing pitches, not his own, and unleash his formidable talent as a hitter on the National League.

Some prognosticators expect Ohtani to surpass the Dodgers’ single-season home run record of 49 set by Shawn Green in 2001. By comparison, Ohtani led the league with 44 last season in only 135 games played.

As the season unfolds, and the drama ensues, the Dodgers 2024 campaign will be defined by one simple thing: a World Series championship.

With a roster stacked with star power and 11 straight postseason appearances on their resume already, anything less than a title would be considered a failure.

The pressure is palpable, and the stakes are high, but for the Dodgers and their millions of loyal fans, this is nothing new. This is what they play for and the pursuit of greatness is a rocky one, but the journey is worth every moment of anticipation and excitement.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *