Managerial Change and Organizational Effectiveness in Major League Baseball: Findings for the Eighties

By Fabianic, David | Journal of Sport Behavior, September 1994 | Go to article overview

Managerial Change and Organizational Effectiveness in Major League Baseball: Findings for the Eighties


Fabianic, David, Journal of Sport Behavior


Managerial replacement is common in professional baseball. It occurs between or during seasons and frequently attracts much media attention. Research on the effect of managerial change on organizational effectiveness, as measured by tea performance, has recognized three theoretical perspectives. (Allen, Panian, & Lotz, 1979; Brown, 1982; Eitzen & Yetman, 1972; Fabianic, 1984; Gamson & Scotch 1964; Grusky, 1963a; 1964). First, the "common sense explanation" holds that managerial succession and team performance are negatively related. (Grusky, 1963a). It attributes a significant portion of the responsibility for team performance with the actions of the manager. Implicit in this explanation is th expectation that performance will improve under a new manager.

A second explanation, ritual scapegoating, recognizes that managerial replacement occurs after poor team performance (Gamson & Scotch, 1964). A central part of this explanation is that the ritual surrounding the managerial change is important in that it reduces anxiety, but the change itself is relatively unimportant to the subsequent performance of the team. This position holds that the actual impact of the manager on team performance is minimal and therefore has little consequence.

A third explanation is the two-way causality theory which holds that following poor team performance, managerial succession occurs which disrupts the team, exacerbating the decline in performance (Grusky, 1963a). This explanation views team performance and succession as being a reciprocal relationship. When team performance declines, managerial succession occurs, but the succession is disruptive of the established patterns of action and relationships which result in further decline in performance.

Various tests of these explanations have been conducted. Grusky (1963a) examine managerial succession rates and team performance of professional baseball teams between 1921-41 and 1951-58 and found that succession rates and effectiveness were negatively related, a finding consistent with the first part of the common sense explanation, even though he rejected this explanation in favor of two-way causality. Gamson and Scotch (1964) eschewed the two-way causality explanation and tentatively proposed ritual scapegoating as a better explanation after controlling for the pre-replacement slump (the period of time immediately prior to replacement during which most team experience poor performance) and reviewin the data on managerial changes from 1954-61. Grusky (1964) replicated the work of Gamson and Scotch and concluded that their data supported the common sense explanation. Maintaining that the type of succession (inside versus outside the organization) was important for explaining subsequent team performance, Grusky argued that inside succession was less disruptive than outside succession and would be more frequently associated with improvement in team performance. He claimed support for the two-way causality explanation by applying this distinction in his analysis of baseball records. Theberge and Loy (1976) examined the period of 1951-60 and found support for Grusky's conclusion.

In an effort to extend the limited time periods utilized for the collection of data in prior research, and to bring more detail on the effects of inside versu outside succession, Fabianic (1984) examined all managerial changes made during the season from 1951 through 1980. Only changes made during the season were recorded because the period between seasons also permitted significant organizational and personnel changes which could have affected team performance Focus on the changes made during the season permitted the test of theories involving possible changes in performance due exclusively to managerial change as well as maximizing the effects of the change on players. The 1984 study determined that the explanation best suited for the issue depended on the time periods and the categories of managerial changes being considered. …

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