Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

A Theoretical Positioning of Major League Baseball's Organizational Strategy

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

A Theoretical Positioning of Major League Baseball's Organizational Strategy

Article excerpt


Major League Baseball (MLB) is a very successful professional sports league. Together with the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL), it makes up the major professional team sports landscape in America. As the oldest of the four leagues, MLB has positioned itself as -America's pastime," and the sport has long withstood change while the other sports having seemingly embraced it. However, recently the sport has started to feel pressure to make various changes. With its pride in tradition, MLB is beginning to face many questions about its future. Beginning with the analysis of Miles and Snow's strategic typologies, this paper will analyze MLB and the questions the league will have to answer.


Miles and Snow determined that companies fit into one of four strategic typologies - prospector, defender, analyzer or reactor. Companies that fall into the defender category do just that - defend. Defenders primarily focus on their existing products and services and trying to improve that which they already do. They are not very concerned about breaking into new markets, as they desire to maintain their location in markets they are already in. Most defenders tend to have a high degree of formalization and centralization in their organizations (Acur, Boer and Laugen, 2006).

Defenders typically do not operate in a wide range of markets. They attempt to run their businesses in markets that are healthy and stable (Christiansen and Higgs, 2008). Defenders engage in strong organizational monitoring and are extremely cautious when it comes to growth. While prospectors are the most innovative when it comes to new products, defenders are considered to have a very narrow scope of products or services. Defenders operate only in areas in which they are experts. They put a high value on standardization, and cost efficiency is extremely important to them (Conant, Mokwa and Varadarajan, 1990).

Conant, Mokwa and Varadarajan (1990) found that managers of defenders tend to have a greater knowledge of their customers and are more effective in cost containment compared to the other strategic types. While defender managers are not known to be as proficient in marketing activities as prospectors and analyzers, they do possess some marketing skills. Also, when compared to reactors, managers also are found to be better at differentiating service offerings and revenue forecasting.

Top managers of defender organizations are experts in their organization's market, but they do not have much knowledge of things outside their market. They are extremely focused on improving the efficiency of their organization's current operations. Also, defenders are effective in technological and administrative competencies; however, they are ineffective when it comes to entrepreneurial competencies (Engelland and Summey, 1999).

Defenders are not very concerned about product innovation, as they are solely focused on what they already do and desire to do it well. Defenders also are known to aggressively defend their place in the market, which is often done through cost leadership (Engelland and Summey, 1999). However, as will be discussed later, that is not always the case.

Major League Baseball (MLB) exhibits many of the traits of a defender. Baseball has long positioned itself as -America's pastime," meaning it holds true to the values upon which America was founded. While MLB has grown tremendously over the past century, it has also strived to keep many of its aspects the same. One example is MLB's season. The league has long started each season in April and ended it in October. The start of the season occurring in April and the end of the season occurring in October is thought to be cherished by many of baseball's most passionate fans. Knowing this, MLB has decided to withstand change and continue to begin its seasons in April and conclude its seasons in October, even when it may not be the best decision. …

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