Shohei Ohtani

The week of MLB’s Opening Day is usually a cause for celebration for the sport. This year, though, feels a bit different.

The Los Angeles Dodgers set the tone in the offseason by acquiring Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Tyler Glasnow in December and the rest of the league just sat and waited until the dawn of spring training to make their moves, with top free-agent starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery remaining on the market.

While it should have been a time of excitement, Ohtani and the Dodgers now find themselves mired in a scandal following the gambling revelations about the two-way superstar’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, who was fired by the team last week.

Speculation has run wild about what Ohtani knew and how involved he may or may not have been in the betting efforts. His only public comment on the incident so far came Monday when he read a prepared statement, denying all knowledge and involvement, and took no questions.

The big question is, what comes next? The sport’s best player is wrapped up in a massive scandal on the eve of the 2024 season, in a story that demands to be discussed. How will ESPN and MLB Network cover it going forward? Will MLB attempt to pressure its broadcast partners to let the story go away?

Richard Deitsch of The Athletic provided a big-picture look in a recent column, where he spoke with representatives from both networks. Both had similar conclusions.

“They have not been heavy-handed with us in general,” Phil Orlins, ESPN’s vice president of production for Major League Baseball said of MLB officials. “If something rises to a point where I feel like there is major exposure or an extreme, delicate subject, we will let them know that it’s coming. That’s not to say that it changes what’s coming. Being in a business relationship, there is a little bit of a respect where if something difficult is coming, they are not blindsided by it.”

MLB Network’s sentiment was similar, with a spokesperson saying, “It’s a significant story and we will cover it as it develops. When the story broke this past week, our reporters Tom Verducci and Jon Morosi both joined ‘MLB Tonight’ multiple times to provide insight.”

The story will likely have no shortage of twists and turns over the next few weeks, and it’s nice to see that the networks are committed to telling it, at least for now. But if it’s determined that Ohtani was more involved than he says, where things go from there remains murky.

[The Athletic]