Shohei Ohtani formally cleared by MLB of any involvement in gambling

On the same day Major League Baseball banned a player for life for betting on baseball, the league formally cleared its biggest star from any involvement in gambling.

Within an hour of Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara pleading guilty to bank and tax fraud charges Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, the league issued a statement absolving Ohtani.

“Based on the thoroughness of the federal investigation that was made public, the information MLB collected, and the criminal proceeding being resolved without being contested, MLB considers Shohei Ohtani a victim of fraud,” the statement read, “and this matter has been closed.”

The player banned for life was utilityman Tucupita Marcano of the San Diego Padres, who had bet on games in which his team played.

Four other players — including Oakland Athletics pitcher Michael Kelly and Arizona Diamondbacks minor leaguer Andrew Saalfrank, who pitched in the World Series last year — were suspended for one year, for betting on baseball games in which their teams did not play.

The lifetime suspension for betting on baseball is the first since 1989, when Pete Rose agreed to such a ban while managing the Cincinnati Reds, and the first time since Major League Baseball opened its wallets to an onslaught of advertisements from and partnerships with sports betting outlets,

The league said it was tipped off by “a legal sports betting operator” in March and corroborated the players’ betting with other sports books.

The league also said none of the five players appeared in any games on which they had bet and said no evidence, including betting data and interviews with players, indicates games were “compromised, influenced, or manipulated in any way.”

The league continues to investigate former Angels infielder David Fletcher and his association with the illegal bookmaking operation used by Mizuhara.

The federal government alleged Mizuhara stole more than $17 million from Ohtani to pay off an illegal bookmaker. Mizuhara, who faces up to 33 years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 25.

“Now that the investigation has been completed, this full admission of guilt has brought important closure to me and my family,” Ohtani said in a statement. “I want to sincerely thank the authorities for finishing their thorough and effective investigation so quickly and uncovering all of the evidence.

“This has been a uniquely challenging time, so I am especially grateful for my support team — my family, agent, agency, lawyers, and advisors along with the entire Dodger organization, who showed endless support throughout this process.

“It’s time to close this chapter, move on and continue to focus on playing and winning ballgames.”

The Dodgers also issued a statement saying the team would “put this entire matter behind them.”

Marcano placed 387 baseball bets worth more than $150,000, most of which came when he was on the injured list with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season.

“Ultimately, Marcano lost all of his parlays involving the Pirates and only won 4.3% of all of his MLB-related bets overall,” the league said in a statement.

Kelly placed 10 baseball bets worth $99.22 in 2021, as a minor leaguer in the Houston Astros organization.

Saalfrank placed 29 baseball bets in 2021 and 2022, worth $445.87, as a minor leaguer in the Diamondbacks organization. Said MLB: “Saalfrank only won five of his 28 MLB-related bets and lost his $1.80 college bet.”

The other minor leaguers suspended for a year: Padres pitcher Jay Groome and Phillies infielder Jose Rodriguez. The league said none of the five suspended players had chosen to appeal.

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