Sáb. Abr 20th, 2024

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Player leaders expressed frustration at Major League Baseball Players Association executives during a Zoom call Monday night, the culmination of a week in which players advocated for the ouster of the union’s chief labor negotiator, sources told ESPN.

On a call with dozens of player representatives from the major and minor league units of the union that lasted nearly three hours, a majority of players in an informal vote told MLBPA executive director Tony Clark they wanted to replace deputy executive director Bruce Meyer with Harry Marino, the lawyer who spearheaded the unionization efforts of minor league players, sources said.

Clark, who has the ability to hire and fire staff members, declined to levy a judgment on Meyer’s future during the call, according to sources.

Clark, Meyer and Marino declined comment when reached by ESPN.

The move by players came amid an offseason that has seen a billion-dollar decrease in spending by major league teams and the extended free agency of World Series standout Jordan Montgomery and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, the latter of whom agreed to a two-year, $62 million contract with the San Francisco Giants on Monday.

Over the previous 24 hours, 21 major league player representatives, after consulting with the rank and file, agreed on a text chain, sources said, to back the appointment of Marino, who joined the MLBPA in September 2022 when it formed a minor league unit recognized by MLB. Marino, who was hired as an assistant general counsel at the union, left in July 2023, less than three months after negotiating the first collective bargaining agreement for minor league players, who on the call were overwhelming in their support of him and who hold 34 of the 72 voting positions on the union’s executive board.

Marino, 33, had generated support among players to take over the union’s labor unit — which he pledged to expand with veteran lawyers — in recent weeks. Players, sources said, lined up behind Marino, also calling for an audit of the MLBPA’s spending. Multiple high-powered agents backed Marino’s candidacy, sources said, with the perception that Meyer, 62, was ideologically aligned with agent Scott Boras.

On the call, players told ESPN, Meyer vociferously denied that being the case and advocated for his work since being hired in 2018. The discussion about Meyer’s future, players on the call said, was animated and at times argumentative — and the lack of a resolution frustrated some who had backed Marino. Late in the call, sources said, players requested that Marino be looped in to make his case as deputy executive director. Clark did not accede to it, sources said.

The potential appointment of Marino was not supported by all the players on the call, sources said. Some questioned his age and installing someone with a relative lack of experience in a high-ranking position to negotiate with a veteran labor team at MLB. The case against Marino had circulated among a small group of player leaders leading up to the call, which Clark called for about two hours before it took place, sources said.

Meyer oversaw the stalled return-to-play negotiations during the height of the pandemic in 2020, prompting commissioner Rob Manfred to implement a 60-game season. Meyer routinely clashed with the league during its 99-day lockout of the players after the expiration of the 2016 CBA. Against the advice of the eight-player executive council that serves as the highest-ranking members of the union, the rank and file voted to agree to a deal in March 2022 that included an increase in luxury tax thresholds and minimum salaries, added a draft lottery and other anti-tanking measures, implemented a $50 million pre-arbitration bonus pool, expanded the playoffs from 10 to 12 teams and gave MLB the right to change on-field rules.

After lavishing a record $3.9 billion on free agents in the winter of 2022-23, MLB teams pulled back this offseason as questions about the future of local television rights roiled the industry. More than one-third of the $2.9 billion in free agent spending this winter went to two players: a record $700 million for Shohei Ohtani — $680 million of which is deferred for a decade — and $325 million for Yoshinobu Yamamoto, both with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Two historic financial behemoths, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, committed less than $50 million to free agents. Eight teams — the Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Miami Marlins, Cleveland Guardians and Colorado Rockies — guaranteed less than $15 million.

Disillusionment among players, sources said, burbled in recent days after the Giants released veteran infielder J.D. Davis, who had beaten the team in an arbitration hearing for a $6.9 million salary. Because salaries won in arbitration cases are not guaranteed — a long-standing rule that was not changed in the most recent labor negotiations — the Giants were required to pay Davis only one-sixth of his salary ($1.15 million). He signed a one-year deal with Oakland for an additional $2.5 million.

The cases of standout left-handed starting pitchers Snell and Montgomery as well as the below-expected salaries of other veteran free agents further irritated players, they said, and prompted disillusionment.

The MLBPA had hired Meyer, who had served as a lawyer for the other three major men’s professional sports unions, as its senior director of collective bargaining in September 2018, following a slowly developing free agent market during the 2017-18 offseason. The five-year labor deal struck between the league and the union in November 2016 was widely seen as a win for MLB, pressuring Clark to create the position.

The union promoted Meyer to deputy executive director in July 2022, strengthening his position as consigliere to Clark, the All-Star first baseman who became the first former major league player to lead the union. Clark, 51, joined the MLBPA in 2010 and in 2013 was voted as the union’s sixth executive director after the death of Michael Weiner. The MLBPA gave Clark a five-year contract extension in November 2022.

Marino, a former minor league player in the Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations, grew to prominence as the executive director of Advocates for Minor Leagues, the group that leveraged the collective force of minor league players to secure improvements in housing before coalescing into a union. In the minor league collective bargaining agreement — negotiated by a group that included Marino and Meyer — players at all domestic levels received pay increases of at least $15,000 a year and codified an array of other benefits not previously offered by teams.

The deal came in the wake of MLB’s $185 million payout to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by minor league players who alleged the league had committed minimum wage violations.

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