HomeMLB RumorsScott Boras, Harry Marino Discuss MLBPA Dispute

Scott Boras, Harry Marino Discuss MLBPA Dispute

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Recent reporting has painted a picture of a divided MLBPA, where some players are pushing for deputy director Bruce Meyer to be replaced by Harry Marino. One of the charges coming from the pro-Marino camp are that Meyer and executive director Tony Clark are too aligned with agent Scott Boras. Evan Drellich of The Athletic spoke to Boras and Marino while also reporting on various other factors of the feud.

“If you have great ideas, and you want those ideas to be promulgated in a manner that is beneficial to the union and the players they represent, you go to Tony Clark with your plan,” Boras said. “You discuss it with him first, and the many lawyers in the union. If you have issues with the union and you want to be involved with the union, you take your ideas to them. You do not take them publicly, you do not create this coup d’etat and create really a disruption inside the union. If your goal is to help players, it should never be done this way.”

Marino also provided comment: “The players who sought me out want a union that represents the will of the majority. Scott Boras is rich because he makes — or used to make — the richest players in the game richer. That he is running to the defense of Tony Clark and Bruce Meyer this morning is genuinely alarming.”

It’s understandable why there is frustration among the players right now, as the offseason has clearly not been kind to them. Many notable free agents remained unsigned into Spring Training and some are even languishing on the open market right now. Various teams are claiming to be at their respective spending limits, often due to uncertainty around TV revenue or competitive balance tax concerns.

Players like Jordan Montgomery, J.D. Martinez, Michael Lorenzen, Brandon Belt, Donovan Solano, Tommy Pham, Robbie Grossman and many others are currently unattached. In recent weeks, players like Michael A. Taylor, Adam Duvall, Tim Anderson, Gio Urshela, Amed Rosario, Randal Grichuk and others have signed for $5MM or less. Players like Blake Snell, Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman were predicted for nine-figure deals at the start of the offseason but had to recently pivot to short-term, opt-out laden pacts.

On top of that, the players seem to have been rankled by the peculiar situation involving J.D. Davis and the Giants. He and the club went to an arbitration hearing, which he won, as the arbiters awarded him a $6.9MM salary for this year instead of the $6.5MM figure the club sought. Arbitration salaries are guaranteed if the sides avoid a hearing but not if they go to one. After the Giants signed Chapman and no longer needed Davis as their third baseman, they released him, only owing him 30 days’ termination pay of $1.11MM. He later signed with the Athletics for a $2.5MM guarantee and $1MM of incentives. Even if he unlocks all those bonuses, he’s still wind up losing more than $2MM by this series of events.

Casey Mize, the Tigers’ MLBPA player rep, spoke to Drellich about the various issues causing the upset. “I think if you went around the room and asked, I think everybody would give you a different answer,” Mize said. “Coming off the heels of this free agency is a pretty glaring one. But there’s tons of details. You could look at the J.D. Davis situation. You could look at free agency. I think you could look at the taxes of the CBT (competitive balance tax) stuff. So many guys are going to give you different answers, whether it’s service time or whatever. I don’t want to get into details of what frustrates me or what I heard last night, but in general, we’re just looking for ways to get better. Those are discussions we have all the time, and yeah, we had one last night.”

Drellich reports that this winter’s frustration has “banded together some agents and players” who have had past dissatisfaction with the union but without being spurred into action until now. The earlier reporting had suggested there was a “strained” relationship between Marino and Meyer, and Drellich depicts a split in the MLBPA between a Marino camp and a Meyer camp. The report adds that the fates of Clark and Meyer are tied, so that both would depart the MLBPA if Marino has enough support to be put into a leadership position. A scenario where Marino effectively replaces Meyer and works alongside Clark is seen as unlikely at this point.

Though it’s plain to see why the players may not be thrilled with the developments of this offseason, it’s surprising from a distance to see such animosity bubbling out into the public, as this isn’t the first time the players have faced difficulties with the economics of baseball. The executive director of the MLBPA has historically been a lawyer or labor leader, but Clark became the first former player to hold the position in 2013. The 2016-21 collective bargaining agreement, this first of his tenure, was widely panned for being a poor result for the players. Meyer was brought aboard in 2018 to help negotiate the next CBA, bringing with him his three decades of experience working with the player unions of the NBA, NHL and NFL.

It was generally perceived that the players made some gains with the current CBA that came out of the 2021-22 lockout. The minimum salary went up from $570K to $700K in 2022, and would continue to have annual increases, set to be $740K in the upcoming season. A pre-arbitration bonus pool was created to get more money to younger players. Salaries for arbitration-eligible players, which were previously not guaranteed for any of them, became guaranteed for those that avoided a hearing. A draft lottery was implemented with the hope of disincentivizing tanking.

The competitive balance tax lines also moved up noticeably, with the base threshold going from $210MM in 2021 to $230MM in 2022, further increasing annually with that threshold at $237MM this year. The other two thresholds holds moved up by comparable amounts. Though the current CBA did feature the addition of the fourth line, whereas there had previously only been three.

Harry Marino, meanwhile, led the effort to unionize minor leaguers. The MLBPA eventually became the collective bargaining arm of minor league players, which led to the first ever CBA for minor leaguers. Marino left the MLBPA after that, with Drellich reporting that his relationship with Meyer “soured significantly” during their time working together on that, but Marino appears to have resurfaced as the attempts to push out Meyer and/or Clark have gained momentum.

The exact nature of those disagreements isn’t clear but it seems that the frustrating offseason has brought them back to the surface and divided the players corps. It appears Marino and those in his camp are accusing Clark and Meyer of being too aligned with Boras. This is a charge that has arisen before, with Meyer calling it “absurd” back in 2021.

Drellich points out that Boras was upset when the players accepted the current CBA, believing they should have held out for more, particularly in terms of pushing the CBT. Though he also adds that many other players and agents viewed things from the opposite side. Based on the wording of Marino’s statement above, it appears his argument stems from the accusation that the union focuses too much on the “richest” players to the harm of others.

The MLBPA has an executive board that consists of 72 members and it was reported earlier today that 38 of those are major leaguers and 34 are minor leaguers. This report from Drellich specially mentions Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito and Ian Happ as players that are both on the board and also Marino supporters.

How Marino would do things differently to the Clark/Meyer leadership is unclear. Per Drellich, Marino’s supporters have been circulating a PowerPoint presentation consisting of eight slides. The full details of this aren’t clear but it apparently questions some of the MLBPA’s own spending decisions, in addition to the recent CBA negotiations.

Supporters of the Clark/Meyer camp, on the other hand, are pointing to track record. Meyer, as mentioned, has three decades of experience working with player unions in other sports. He has only been with the MLBPA since 2018 but has already gone toe-to-toe with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and deputy commissioner Dan Halem, enduring a lockout that lasted more than three months and saw the players make some of the aforementioned gains. The Davis situation, though understandably frustrating, was possible with all arbitration-eligible players until this current CBA. While the new deal didn’t close that loop completely, it at least made arbitration salaries guaranteed for those who avoid a hearing. The CBT impacting league spending is also understandably annoying, but those thresholds moved up considerably with this CBA.

Marino, meanwhile, is just 33 years old and has far less on his résumé. Drellich relays that MLB found Meyer difficult to deal with and would be happy to see him go, something his defenders point to as a positive. As Drellich also points out, the league is naturally happy with any discord between the players as it will only help them in negotiating future CBAs.

Per today’s reporting, it seems the outcome is a binary, where the union will either stay the course with Clark/Meyer or make a significant pivot by going with a largely unknown quantity in Marino, a decision that could have ramifications for the players for years to come. The current CBA runs through the 2026 season.

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