Jack Flaherty remorseful over MLBPA discord: ‘I wish I was never on that phone call’

Jack Flaherty sounded remorseful.

Last Monday, the Detroit Tigers right-hander was part of a group of players who confronted Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. The players wanted Clark to replace his second-in-command, Bruce Meyer, with a former MLBPA lawyer, Harry Marino. And the call grew heated.

Less than a week later, Flaherty and the other seven major leaguers on the union’s executive subcommittee authorized Clark to issue a statement saying, “We still have issues to discuss but one thing clear among the MLB executive subcommittee members is that this is no longer a Harry Marino discussion, in any respect.”

With that, a tumultuous week inside the union took another dramatic turn. The subcommittee’s statement did not address the fate of Meyer. But Flaherty, in an interview with The Athletic on Sunday, expressed regret for the way he conducted himself on the call with Clark — and optimism that the events of the past week will lead to the union growing stronger.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Where are you with Tony?

I love working with Tony. I continue to inform Tony on what was going on and informed him on what was happening. Tony has done a great job handling all of this, even at points where I was at fault and may not have put him in the best position.

He has handled this situation very well and with poise and with great leadership, taking the time to talk to as many players as I’m sure he has talked to the past two weeks, over the course of this whole thing going on. It has not gone on for very long, but it happened very quickly, making it feel like this was something that went on for a very long time.

What were you doing that you were at fault for?

There was one phone call that went on that I put Tony in a bad position in, where Harry tried to push his way through. He tried to pressure Tony, and Tony stood strong, said this is not going to happen. Tony has done nothing but stand strong in all of this. That was something I would love to take back. I never wanted Harry to be in Bruce’s position.

Tony and I have gone over it. We’ve talked about how I put him in an uncomfortable position. That’s the relationship we have. We can talk about these things. Not everything is going to be perfect. You take that, you move on and you learn from it. I appreciate the way Tony has handled it.

Were you trying to help Harry gain momentum?

No, that’s not what was going on. I was not trying to push Harry and give Harry any type of momentum. I was simply trying to inform Tony what was going on and what was coming his way.

The way you said it wasn’t ideal?

I think putting Tony in contact with Harry was not the right thing to do. Actually, I didn’t put Tony in contact with Harry. But I wish I was never on that phone call. I wish I was not in that situation. The phone call was uncomfortable, the way Harry kind of went at Tony and tried to push things on him. I wish I was not on that.

How did this all start? What is the timeline? Who was behind it?

I got a phone call about (Marino) on March 8. That’s the first time I ever heard his name. This did not come from an agent. It never came from CAA (Flaherty’s agency). I think because there are two guys who were involved in conversations with Harry and happened to be at CAA, it’s looked at as that. But my agent was never involved in any of this. He did not speak to Harry until after I talked to him. I never got introduced to him by Harry.

I had another player call me. I’m not going to say which player. He was like, “Hey, I think you should meet with this guy.” I met with him. (Marino) asked who he should meet with. I told him, “You’re in Florida, we’ve got three other subcommittee members here. You should go meet with them.” He chose to not meet with everybody. And then over the course of the next week, things intensified very quickly. The subcommittee had a phone call (last Saturday). It was like, this needs to be talked about. Whatever is going on, we need to have this conversation.

We talked through some things: “This is what’s going on. This is what players were saying. But this guy is not somebody to replace Bruce.” I had discussions with different guys about that specifically, before that call, after that call, every point through that. I said he’s not somebody to replace Bruce, but if you guys want to listen to him, we can continue this conversation. Things got way out of hand after that.

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Jack Flaherty is entering his eighth major-league season. (Kim Klement Neitzel / USA Today)

How did Harry become such a threat to the status quo?

When you go around and you have things to say and you talk to certain people, you can influence guys. Our job as players is to inform each and every guy of what’s going on, to try to figure out the right way to go about things and the right way to come together, come to a formulated agreement on things. Once it got to a certain point and things became very pushy, it was evident this thing needs to stop. This has gotten out of hand.

I heard at one point before Sunday, the subcommittee was kind of divided. You, Lucas (Giolito), (Ian) Happ, maybe (Austin) Slater wanted change, wanted Meyer out. (Marcus) Semien was the hardest line in favor of keeping him. Francisco Lindor, (Brent) Suter and (Lance) McCullers were kind of in between. Is that a fair portrayal?

The entire subcommittee is going to have conversations. You may start on opposite sides. But at a certain point, you want to come to an agreement. Our job is to have these conversations with each other and eventually come to an agreement, which is where we are now, which is Harry is not a part of any type of conversation.

What are the chances of Bruce Meyer getting replaced?

I have absolutely no idea. We’re having internal discussions. Those types of things are going to stay internal. Bruce is somebody who has done a really good job as part of the union. He has helped us through the last CBA and through COVID and has done a really good job stabilizing everything and moving us in the right direction.

So why is there dissatisfaction with him?

We have a huge, wide variety of players. Players come from all over. In any aspect of life, you’re going to have people who feel a certain type of way. No matter who you’re talking about, if you talk to one person, they’re going to feel one way. If you talk to another person, they’re going to feel another way. So, to talk about dissatisfaction of Bruce really just depends who you to talk to.

Why did you get to this point?

Things happen very quickly. You get somebody (Marino) who comes around and has a couple of good things to say. There were differences of opinion about what he was looked at as. All I can speak for is myself. And after I talked to him, I never saw him as somebody who was ever going to replace Bruce. I thought he had interesting ideas. Other players felt things he had to say were interesting. And it started discussions between players.

Player involvement is always good. That’s what a lot of this has shown. Players want to talk to each other, be more involved, have discussions, prepare for this next CBA, make sure our union is together, and make sure guys are all on the same page. We’re coming together through all this. I don’t think any of this is pushing people apart from each other. If anything, it’s the most players have communicated over the last two years, which is a good thing.

When does this need to end? Is there a vote coming in the next few days?

I do not know. I don’t have the answers to those questions. All I know is that players are trying to get information and making sure there’s no misinformation going around. Players want to have discussions, but we’ve got the season coming around the corner, so guys are getting ready for that.

There has been talk of a lack of communication, from the PA to the players. What has been the problem?

I think players need to have an understanding that when you take on a job as a rep and you take on a job as a subcommittee member, your job is to communicate with your players and the rest of the league. It’s something you learn and figure out as it goes. But players are figuring out how important it is to talk to players and continue to inform them of what’s going on.

Players approved the current CBA. The executive subcommittee at the time (of which Flaherty was not a member) did not endorse it. What is your concern about what has happened since?

The most glaring thing is what has gone on in free agency. It may have just been one year, where you have guys who took forever to sign, guys signing for under what their actual value is. That’s something to figure out.

Where are you on a salary cap?

No salary cap. And I think all players are in agreement on that. It’s a conversation that has not even gone around with players. It’s not something that is talked about.

Anything else you want to add?

As players, all we’re doing now is coming together and having more discussion. You want to hear everyone’s opinion. You want to hear what players have to say, so at the end of the day we can all come to an agreement. This has helped more players to speak up and use their voice.



Major leaguers on influential committee say union’s power struggle ‘no longer a Harry Marino discussion’

(Top photo of Jack Flaherty: Kim Klement Neitzel / USA Today)

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