Notes: Other teams unhappy with A’s, gambling, Scott Boras axed

Catching up on a week of news that wouldn’t stop.

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Last week, Buster Olney tweeted out something that made the whole internet groan. Not at Olney — not this time — but at pretty much all of MLB. You can probably figure out why just from reading what was said:

Within other organizations, there is a lot of disgust with how the A’s have handled the ballpark situation — especially when there’s no actual ballpark plan settled in Las Vegas. And there is an assumption the A’s will tank in the next few years, because their revenue stream will be down to a trickle. “This makes us all look bad,” said one person.

This was met with a chorus of “why did they approve the A’s move, then?!” which, understandable. A few things I’ve been thinking about, though, that should get a mention. For one, Olney doesn’t clarify whether this is from an owner, or an executive who happens to work for one, who had nothing to do with the move being allowed. It would be helpful if we knew: my guess is that it’s an executive who knows how bad of a look this is, and not one of the owners, who by and large are too removed from humanity to ever consider how something will make them “look” to people at large.

Though! It could be from an owner, too, who is at least capable of understanding that the A’s are kind of giving away the game here. Yes, all of the owners voted for the A’s to be able to relocate, but that’s just the public-facing vote that every owner is locked in a room until they make it unanimous and commissioner Rob Manfred signals to unbar the door. It’s entirely possible that someone who has been mad about the A’s behavior for years voted no to relocation in the one that actually determined whether it was happening or not. Or would have if it weren’t so pointless because they knew the A’s had the votes.

This isn’t a defense of any owner, mind you. Just me pointing out some potential reasons why an owner might have voted for the A’s but been unhappy about it, which is something we’ve all pretty much done at one time or another. Should this hypothetical owner have maybe been more vocal about their opposition? Of course, but that’s not how things go in this realm. I wrote the way I did about Peter Angelos a couple of weeks ago for a reason, you know.

Anyway. All of this does make MLB look bad, but they do it because it’s good for the rest of the owners in the long run if the A’s get their way. So they’ll stifle their objections, give an occasional anonymous whine to an Olney or a Jon Heyman or whomever, and then get back to the unified front against the players and taxpayers.

Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, has now been accused of stealing over $16 million from Ohtani in order to cover his gambling debts, going so far as to take control of an account that he’d use while posing as Ohtani to convince the bank to make wire transfers for him to do so. It’s… not great.

What I want to focus on here today, though, is what Barry Petchesky wrote for Defector on gambling addiction. Mizuhara was making 25 bets per day, at a scale you genuinely cannot imagine if you haven’t already seen the figures that were part of the charges. His average bets were around $13,000! He was making them for years! From 2021 onward, he won $142 million… while losing $183 million. He managed to steal $16 million from Ohtani without that even coming close to fully covering what he owed in losses. Incredible.

Here’s Petchesky:

Gambling addiction is every bit as neurochemical as drug addiction, even if it’s one’s own body pumping out the rewards. Something like one percent of Americans are problem gamblers, which means 3 million people potentially wired like Ippei Mizuhara are walking around—and their vulnerability is treated like a demographic to be marketed to. Legalized sports betting has rolled over the American sports experience like a wave, soaking the willing and unwilling, and drowning some hapless number. Many of these might never have discovered they were problem bettors if betting hadn’t been made available in their pocket.

You can say that Mizuhara’s case is a different thing, that DraftKings will never extend you credit until you’re $40 million in the hole. This is true. But people with addictions have other ways of feeding the beast. Maybe they will steal money from their friends; maybe they will steal money from strangers; maybe they will sell all their stuff, or stop paying their rent. Betting is an especially pernicious vice because, unlike with drink or drug, you can tell yourself that you can get back to where you used to be with just one run of good luck. No one hooked on opioids tries to convince themselves that more pills might permanently cure their problem; bettors believe it every day.

You should read the whole thing, because as amazing as it is that Mizuhara managed to find the one instance where it wasn’t super kickass to steal money from a wealthy person, it’s also depressing: gambling addiction is real, and while Mizuhara’s specific circumstances aren’t a common occurrence, someone who simply cannot stop placing bets, to their own detriment and self-destruction, is. And will be even more so, in this new-look sports world we’re constructing, where that gateway to addiction is located inside your pocket, and is legal.

Jordan Montgomery was apparently not pleased with how his offseason went on and on, because he’s reportedly fired agent Scott Boras. Normally I wouldn’t bother with mentioning an agent change in this space, but given Boras’ reputation, the fighting within the Players Association that correctly or incorrectly, has invoked his name on more than one occasion, and teams basically, in unison, being comfortable waiting his clients out until their demands were a fraction of what they were when the offseason began… it feels like a relevant data point. Was this winter (and spring) a blip, or have the owners decided that Boras no longer has power over them, even if it’s to their detriment in the short term? The long-term benefits of getting someone with Boras’ negotiating power out of the picture must be incredibly tempting for them. It’s something to watch over, at least, and the players, like Montgomery, will surely be watching, too, and drawing their own conclusions from there about whether it’s worth sticking with him or not.

This isn’t meant to be a judgment on whether Montgomery’s call was the right one, either. It’s to say that change might be coming to longstanding structures and axioms of MLB’s world, and that they will have meaning to sort out.

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