May 18, 2024

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The MLBPA's power struggle will likely end with a vote on the leadership of union president Tony Clark

The MLBPA's power struggle will likely end with a vote on the leadership of union president Tony Clark

Do Harry Marino and his supporters have enough votes to remove Tony Clark as president of the Major League Baseball Players Association? The showdown between Marino and union leaders, Clark and his second-in-command, Bruce Meyer, may hinge on that answer, according to interviews with people familiar with the situation. Some club player representatives are said to already be conducting informal polls within their clubs about Clarke's future, two people familiar with the votes said on Wednesday night.

While the firestorm is still raging behind the scenes two full days after news emerged of a mutiny within the federation, both sides are campaigning intensely, speaking to players and agents on the phone all day, trying to rally support for their respective causes.

A group of players and agents who want a new direction at the union on Monday night asked Clarke to remove Mayer — the third time that request has been made recently, a person familiar with the discussions said. Their complaints relate not only to collective bargaining, but to how the union is run in general, ranging from complaints about a lack of communication to poor vision and questionable budgeting. Some players are seeking to review the federation’s spending.

Within the MLBPA, Marino's efforts are viewed as a coup by a power-hungry young lawyer and disgruntled clients who support him. There's no indication Clark will remove Meyer, at least not based on what's happened so far. But the CEO usually also controls the processes of hiring and firing employees. Voting would not normally be a way to hire or fire someone at Mayer's level. This is Clark's specialty.

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Ultimately, if Clark doesn't make the roster change some players want, it may come down to whether those players have enough votes to remove Clark. If that happens, Marino himself, 33, could take over.

On Wednesday night, Marino said in a statement that he was not actively seeking Clark's job.

“To put things in perspective, I never campaigned for Tony Clark's position,” Marino said. “In fact, I made it clear to Tony that I wanted to work with him two days ago.

“Although the narrative of a palace coup or a heated political campaign will grab the headlines, the reality of what happened last week is far less dramatic: the league’s key players found their voice and used it to remove a lead negotiator they didn’t want and to demand a review of how… Spending their hard-earned entitlements money.”

“When all is said and done, both major league and minor league players will have a union that resembles the MLBPA they actually want more than the MLBPA had when the players drafted me to help them in the process,” he said.

It is believed that a vote among the 72-player Executive Board members would be enough to sack a CEO. The group consists of 38 major players and 34 minor players. However, electing a new president may require a membership-level vote; That's how Clark was elected in 2013. The entire membership has grown by more than 5,000 players since then, following the minor league MLBPA. Marino led the organization of young players and built strong relationships across the group.

However, the ball appears to be in Marino's court. There appears to be no need for a preemptive move at this point for Clarke and Meyer to remain in their roles, technically, even if it may be politically difficult for one or both to move forward. But there is a proactive step needed from Marino and his supporters to make change: a formal vote on Clark.

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Marino's campaign focuses on everyday players, rather than the big players who bring in top dollar, like Scott Boras' clients. But what Marino will change about baseball's economic system is not yet clear. MLB owners have long touted the salary cap as a way to redistribute wages to players, but players have long rejected a cap, believing it hurts their overall economic standing in the long run.

Regardless of the outcome, the chaos in and around the federation has hurt the players' overall strength, at least for the time being. There are only two years left before the union, and those leading it, negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement with MLB's highly efficient labor relations department — before the supposed lockout that will begin in December 2026.

(Photo by Clark: Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)