Lance McCullers Jr. is one of the most active members of the Major League Baseball Players Association as part of its eight-person executive subcommittee. McCullers on Thursday gave his perspective to The Athletic on the union’s affairs at a crucial juncture: A group of players have asked executive director Tony Clark to remove deputy director Bruce Meyer, with a former MLBPA lawyer, Harry Marino among those calling for change. Marino and McCullers’ agent, Scott Boras, have also exchanged words publicly.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and space.

What have the last three days been like for you as a member of the subcommittee and dealing with your own clubhouse as this has gone on?

I think we are committed as a union to try to keep things in-house as much as possible. I don’t necessarily think guys getting together and wanting everyone on the same page is bad. I know that’s like the spin, that’s kind of the narrative right now. I don’t think players asking for Zoom calls, hosting Zoom calls to discuss union leadership or our goals as a union is bad. I think it’s good.

There’s clearly a lot of voices. But at the end of the day, if you’re involved in the union, it’s a lot of work and there’s no real benefit from it other than you want to advance player rights and you want to do what’s best for players. I think that there’s a little bit of a misconception on what’s happening. I think people are under the impression that Tony is up for getting axed or things of that nature. From the discussion that I’ve had with player leadership, we’re trying to legitimately come together as a full union — not just a subcommittee and not just the player reps — we’re trying to come together as a full union and really figure out what are the next best steps for us as the MLBPA.

Do you have faith in Tony Clark and do you think he should continue in his role?

I absolutely have faith in Tony Clark. We just extended Tony. These are the same conversations that we had (in 2022) when we extended Tony. Tony’s been part of the union since the mid-90s. He’s the guy that we have entrusted with leading us. He’s never shied away from wanting player involvement. And I think when you have really good player engagement, people are going to question, people are going to bring up maybe uncomfortable topics at times. But when the goal is to push players’ rights forward, I don’t think there’s anyone that has a problem with it.

The roles of Bruce Meyer, left, and Tony Clark are at the center of the discussions. (AP Photo / Richard Drew)

What about deputy director Bruce Meyer?

Bruce, I feel like, has done a really good job for us. Bruce came on in 2018, I believe, and I think we’re in a much better place now than we were when Bruce got here. Whether or not Bruce stays is going to be something that we’re actively speaking on. Ultimately it’ll come down to what Tony feels. I think what has been the narrative and what has been in the media is that there is some type of overthrow-of-the-union happening. And I think that’s completely false. I think you’re seeing a lot of guys be super engaged and I think that sometimes maybe that can look odd from the outside, but really within, that’s what Tony and Bruce and the subcommittee have always wanted, even past subcommittees. They wanted more engagement. They wanted activity from all the reps, from all the clubhouses. So for me, it’s not a bad thing. For me, it’s actually a good thing. I think players being involved years before CBAs are good. I don’t think players coming to the table once every five years and trying to act like they know what’s happening is the most efficient way to do it. So I think that this is good that we’re having these discussions.

Bruce negotiated the last CBA. So I guess I’m wondering is there something in that CBA or something that came out of that which prompted this?

I think COVID’s prompted this. I think you saw wild engagement across the board during COVID. Guys were super locked in. Guys were super attentive. We were hosting calls with 3-400 people on it for hours. Coming out of COVID, we went right into right into the next labor negotiation. And then you saw once again, every call you’re talking about 90, 100, 150, 200 guys in the call. You’re seeing 30, 40, 50 guys show up to Palm Beach during the active negotiations (during the lockout in 2022).

What has happened is, the engagement has skyrocketed across the league — from player reps to subcommittee board members to players who are not even player reps. And I think when there’s so much engagement, you’re going to have to have check-ins often. I think this will be something that’s probably more regular, where guys come together and we talk to leadership and we talk to Tony, we talk to our lawyers and we talk to our staff about our personal goals more often. I think that’s really great.

Do you think Harry Marino should be involved in the union at all or in any leadership capacity?

The discussion I’ve had with player leadership and the discussion I’ve had with my clubhouse is that right now we’re focused on the vision of our PA and that, at this current moment, has nothing to do with Harry Marino.

I don’t know how much you’ve spoken with him or listened to what he had to say, but what is your take on what Harry is trying to do and what he’s what he’s spoken to you guys about?

I have not spoken to Harry individually. There’s a process for this type of stuff and the process is the players will talk, the players will get to their reps, the reps will get on a call with the subcommittee and we will all discuss where the sense of the clubhouses around the league are at. There’s a lot of players in the league. There’s 750 major leaguers and we also represent other guys on the 40-man. There’s a lot of voices to be heard and there’s a lot of information to collect. We as a group will tell Tony how we feel as a player group. Tony will take that information in, consider it and then we will have a follow-up call and we’ll discuss what the future of our union is. As far as someone coming in and ousting via a majority vote and taking out Tony and replacing him, that’s not how this works. That’s not how it ever worked. It has become a divisive topic. Because of that, I don’t think Harry has a future with us, from my individual, personal opinion. But, at the end of the day, Tony and the players’ voices will be heard.

What has prompted this?

Guys want more information. Guys want more ability to have a pulse on the day-to-day activities and the day-to-day decisions, which is a great thing. Tony will not say that he doesn’t want players involved. Bruce will not say that. The other lawyers on staff, the other members of the PA have been urging players for probably decades, honestly … they’ve been urging guys to be involved, ask questions. I saw a lot of stuff coming out of spring training that the meetings were hostile. There was zero hostility in our meeting. And I have that same rhetoric, the same report from other guys like (Francisco) Lindor. Yeah, we had conversations and, yeah, sometimes tough questions are asked and people are put on the spot and we want to hear from them.

But as far as hostile goes, there’s a difference between wanting information and wanting to have more of a sense of the day-to-day activities of the union and how the players want to align themselves and the goals and the players moving forward versus hostility. I think right now those lines are blurred.

Do you think there’s a communication problem within the MLBPA?

I’ve never had a communication problem. Maybe guys want calls more often, maybe they want more detailed emails, things of that nature. But, for me, any time I had a question, any time a guy on the team (has) had a question, the PA guys are always willing to jump on the phone with us. If there’s more communication that guys want, I think that the PA will be able to provide that. I think that in the past maybe players haven’t wanted that. If we want to change the way that is structured, they’ll be game for it.

You’re a Scott Boras client. What is your response when you hear the rumors that Scott Boras controls the union?

Agents are a part of our lives and they’re a big part of our life. We rely on them. But, at the end of the day, this is our union. And no player or, to my knowledge, committee member on the board of the PA — like Bruce, Tony, any of the employees at PA — are arms or branches of agents. At the end of the day, we are close with them. They are someone that we probably confide in and we speak with. Me, personally, I have a great relationship with Scott. It has never been about the MLBPA. It’s always been about me or my career or honestly just kind of life advice. I have no reason to believe anyone — Boras client, CAA client, anyone in the union — is like a mole or an extension of their agent. I don’t think any member of our committee is either. And when I say committee, I mean the guys who work at the PA.

How does this end?

It’s going to end with player leaders — the subcommittee, the elected officials of each team — being more probably in tune with everything going on the PA. There’s going to probably be more communication. There’s going to be even more player involvement. There’s going to be a clear and decisive goal and path that the players want to run down. And I think that’s great.

Specifically in the Astros clubhouse, are they in agreement with this? Is there any dissension? What have been your conversations like with members of your own team?

We have not met. We are actually going to meet soon, I don’t know exactly when that will be. I’m on the subcommittee, but I’m also our player rep. (Kyle) Tucker is really involved as well … We’re going to speak internally. The players have always, on our side, been super engaged and super knowledgeable. As a player rep, my job is to listen to my team. As a subcommittee member, I can vote how I personally feel. But as a player rep, my team’s voice is how I represent them and we’ll find out what that is.

How would you describe the cohesion of the subcommittee right now?

I think it’s good. I think guys are bringing up a lot of great points. Maybe they’ve been feeling this way for a bit of time and I think maybe it’s coming to a head a little bit, but none of this in a negative way. Players being more involved in the union — end of the day, point blank, period — is not negative. I think it’s the best thing because then guys are going to be more knowledgeable. they’re going to be more willing to stand by everyone when these CBA negotiations come. I think right now it’s being spun in the media as a negative thing, like ‘Oh, there’s cracks in the leadership or there’s some type of coup happening or this and that’ when really it’s more about guys are wanting to be more involved. I think working through that process has been interesting. But, at the end of the day, I think the subcommittee stands pretty strong. We communicate often and I think we’ll come out of this on the right path for our union.

Do you think this weakens the union?

I think it strengthens the union. People are making it out to seem like the union is weak and I think it’s the opposite. I think that when people are engaged, and I think when people are actively asking questions and are wanting … we’re (two) years from bargaining, right? Guys want a very clear, decisive vision on what that bargaining will look like now. That’s a great sign. In the years past, there’s little engagement or there’s not a lot of engagement until that CBA comes up — maybe a couple months before (or) that offseason. Even non-player reps are flocking to the board meetings in the offseasons. I talked to players from other teams who aren’t even reps.

Guys are reaching out (to say) ‘Hey, this is what we feel, this is how we’re thinking.’ Typically in the past, it was like the player reps had to almost, I don’t want to say pull teeth, but almost had to really engage guys and really try to get a sense of what they feel and then go to the subcommittee. All the time it wasn’t maybe conducive. But I think now, you’re seeing all players across the board — not even guys on the subcommittee, not even guys who are actually player reps — wanting to be involved and wanting to have their voices heard. I think that’s where this is coming from. Guys want a clear, decisive path that all players are behind. I think that’s good. Maybe people want to push the narrative that the union is weak, but at the end of the day, I think the union is strong. I think it’s going to become even stronger because of what’s happening.

Ideally, in your mind, how would you like this to end?

I want it to end with the betterment of the players. I can’t tell you how that’s going to be at this moment. As a player rep and also a subcommittee rep, my job is literally to represent my team and also my job is to represent what I feel based off the conversations I have. It’s not my personal wants and my personal needs.

This is why the whole agent thing has always been weird to me. Whether it’s been Collin McHugh, Jason Castro, Andrew Miller, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, no one, I feel, has ever acted in someone else’s best interest. They’re not even acting in their own best interest. Gerrit Cole is pounding the table on year two of his nine-year free agency deal … and literally said ‘I will miss the entire year if that’s what I have to do to help advance player rights in the CBA.’ He has nothing to gain from that. All he has is money to lose. You’ve seen guys over the history of our union, especially this last CBA, willing to make big sacrifices that matter to them and that affect them negatively only. I think our subcommittee and our player reps have done a good job trying to move forward with non-self agendas.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We’re not in a weak point. I think that’s one of the things being pushed often and heavy is that we’re at a weak, breaking point and we’re cracking and there’s fractions in our leadership and that’s not the case. The case is as simple as this: players are more engaged than ever. Players are coming together to actively discuss the future of our union. It happens every five years. It happened when we extended Tony and then ultimately when Tony extended Bruce. Guys want to revisit that and guys want to make sure that everything that we have put in motion is still what everyone wants and believes. At the end of the day, we will figure out what that is.

(Top photo of McCullers: Ron Vesely / Getty Images)



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