The gambling scandal involving Shohei Ohtani and his now-former interpreter is not the only eyebrow-raising off-field story to watch in the week leading up to MLB Opening Day. Turmoil at the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) may see the ousting of the union's second in command if some players have their way. A group of players are seeking the removal of deputy director Bruce Meyer, the No. 2 behind MLBPA chief Tony Clark, and lined up former MLBPA lawyer Harry Marino as his would-be replacement, The Athletic and ESPN reported. 

Movement apparently started on a text chain with more than 20 players, most or all of whom are union reps, leading to a Zoom call on March 18 with Clark that reportedly lasted hours. That call included many player reps and was "sometimes heated," according to The Athletic, though it ended without any resolution. As the week continued, new reporting from The Athletic said Clark himself may be in the line of fire as well.

As spring training wound down Sunday, Marino and Clark continued their public sniping, with the former alleging that "players are being threatened, bullied, and retaliated against for having come forward with their honest opinions." Clark responded by finger-pointing at "a coordinated and covert effort to challenge" the foundation of the MLBPA. 

While the story is still developing and likely will be for some time, the reader may have questions about what's unfolded so far. Let's attempt to answer those at this time. 

What are the players upset about?

In part, it seems to be driven by the growing divide between the upper class of free agents and those less-renowned types who have a much more difficult time finding suitors. Though the very top-end free agents like Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto cashed in huge this offseason, there's growing concern among the players that the lesser free agents aren't getting their due, notably the "middle class" players. 

Even above that, there have been some high-profile free agents struggling to make near what they have asked this offseason, particularly four high-profile Scott Boras clients in Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Blake Snell (who just agreed to a deal with the Giants on Monday night) and Jordan Montgomery (who remains unsigned). While there could be some affronts of less importance in play, the push for change seems to be motivated by how much less clubs have spent on free agents this offseason compared to last. 

Who are Meyer and Marino?

Bruce Meyer was hired by the MLBPA in 2018 and oversaw negotiations with the league to return to play after the COVID shutdown in 2020. As noted above, he's Tony Clark's top lieutenant within the union. Meyer was central to the negotiation of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that came out of the owner-led lockout of 2021-22. While that CBA brought about some gains for the players in key areas, the soft market for free agents this winter is overshadowing all other matters at the moment. 

Perhaps related to the push to oust Meyer, the ESPN report acknowledges a belief that Meyer is "ideologically aligned with Boras," though Meyer "vociferously denied" that this is the case. More on that soon. It should be clear that the ESPN report says the players were not unanimous in wanting Marino hired as Meyer's replacement. 

Marino, before his role with the MLBPA, led the Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lot of minor-league baseball players and pushing for union representation. The group eventually came under the umbrella of the MLBPA when the union agreed to add minor-league players to its membership rolls. In addition to being young -- he's 33 -- and a former minor-league reliever, Marino also no doubt has a great deal of capital with the minor-league players he helped become union members, and those current and former minor leaguers who were once guided by Marino are now a significant presence in the MLBPA. The players reportedly requested Marino be looped into the aforementioned Zoom call, but Clark allegedly denied the request. As such, Marino was reportedly not on the call. 

As for the link between the two, Meyer and Marino are said to have a strained relationship after working together on the first and current minor-league CBA.

Friday, Meyer sent a letter to the players in which he discussed "revisionist history" and "misinformation." 

Perhaps the most important part is toward the bottom where he says that MLB has demonized him and "spread the lie that I had been somehow hired at the behest of Scott Boras and was therefore beholden to him." 

What is Marino's plan?

You might wonder just what Marino envisions doing if he does complete a rise to power in the MLBPA. ESPN's Jeff Passan filled in some blanks on Thursday after obtaining the one-page document in which Marino had outlined his vision. Part of Marino's vision is to "shift power back to the members" through "informed recommendations backed by data and reasoning" and "trim the waste and excess." 

Here's more, courtesy of Passan:

Marino also laid out a plan for his first 250 days as part of union leadership. He would hire an outside firm to perform an audit on the MLBPA's finances, conduct a survey of players to learn about their issues with the union and bargaining priorities, and begin a nationwide search for senior leadership and a collective-bargaining team "under supervision of the Executive Board." At the MLBPA's board meeting in November 2024, the document said, Marino would introduce the new hires and present goals and strategy for bargaining, propose a new budget and offer a plan for better communication.  

Has Scott Boras said anything?

Indeed he has. The super-agent whose presence looms large within the union is no doubt perceived by some players and fellow agents as wielding too much power -- power that, the thinking goes, accrues the benefit of the most high-profile MLBPA members, many of whom are Boras clients. 

What's clear is that Boras puts the blame for the putsch on Marino. Via Evan Drellich of The Athletic, Boras on Tuesday said: 

"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. 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."

Not surprisingly, Marino also had something to say, and he delivered this statement to The Athletic: 

"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."

At this point, it's fair to assume that the Clark-Meyer alliance also includes Boras.

Boras criticized the efforts further, claiming that his clients have been shut out of the process.

"They specifically excluded players  who I represented on the board from information. They have excluded players I represent from this early information. They've gone to two players that we don't represent to use them as a fortress of beginning, the agent told USA Today.

"Why did they do that? Go to the union. Be upfront. Let them know what your plan is. If it's a better plan, we should all listen. We're not denying information. But when you take a course of secrecy, selectivity, and denial of information from a category of major leaguers, you're not going to be well-received by the totality of the group."

He also defended his offseason, particularly the shorter-term deals with opt-outs for players like Snell. Boras said he was giving his clients the choice, saying most other agents just take the highest guaranteed amount.

"The reason we do that is because most agents need the money and they will take the guarantee, which doesn't give the player the choice of potentiating his skill level in an environment of performance where he can do much better," he told USA Today. "I don't make those decisions, I just make sure have players have those choices.

What happens next? 

Depending on how many players support Marino's apparent bid and how vocal they are, Marino may indeed be installed in a position of power in the MLBPA. But late Wednesday, Drellich identified a new target in the turmoil: Clark himself, citing that some player reps are already informally polling their clubs about the union boss' future. A vote among the 72-player executive board is believed to be sufficient to remove an executive director," according to The Athletic but installing a new executive director may require a broader vote among the entire union body.

It's hard to imagine that Marino would be placed in a role adjacent to or under Meyer, so his elevation likely indeed means Meyer's ouster. Clark has been the executive director since 2013 and was given a five-year extension in 2022, but he's had his share of detractors along the way that's led to apparent fissures within the union, which is a rare state of affairs, at least as powerful and single-objective unions go. Theoretically, Clark could appease the Marino block and agree to Meyer's exit, but Drellich reports that insiders see that as unlikely. Maybe this uprising is put down and the status quo within the MLBPA holds for now, but it seems just as likely that we see sweeping leadership changes that reach all the way to the top of the union. 

How much time does the union have to figure out all this?

That's uncertain. What is certain is that the current CBA, which runs through the end of the 2026 season, is close to halfway through its lifespan. While late 2026 seems like a long time away, discussions on a document as sprawling as complicated as the MLB-MLBPA CBA are necessarily lengthy and time-consuming. They're probably already underway in the informal sense, and those talks become more serious and more high-stakes the closer you get to that expiration date. Any kind of leadership change would entail a transition period and likely a "mending fences" initiative with those who opposed the change. There's time for such a runway, but this probably isn't something that can take, say, a year or more to play out and have the union be where it needs to be when talks with the league get especially serious. 

More to come, probably.