Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Owners and Managers: Communication Breakdown in MLB

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A rant by KIN 6300 student D. Steinberg

It must be difficult to be an owner of a Baseball team. I mean sure, you probably live a luxurious lifestyle. Not to mention, you get to watch all the games for free. But you also have to take heat from fans, the media, and critics when something goes wrong. And more often that not, something will go wrong. Take for example, hiring both Managers and General Managers. Sometimes, communication breakdown happens between two negotiating for contracts and someone gets burned. It’s very early in the MLB offseason and already there have been two events in Baseball that reflect poorly on the owners.Unknown.png

Let’s start with trying to hire a manager for your baseball club. More importantly, let’s examine the situation that happened with the Washington Nationals. A quick summary can be found here. Basically, it looked for certain that Washington would hire Bud Black over Dusty Baker as new Manager of the ball club. However, after negotiations turned sour due apparent low balling by Washington owner Ted Lerner, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the club and forced the Nationals to hire Baker instead.

Black, seen here as Manger of the San Diego Padres, backed out of negotiations due to a lack of communication.

Black, seen here as Manger of the San Diego Padres, backed out of negotiations due to a lack of communication.

Already, you have an interesting case study in the dialogue between Owner and Manager. Just like any player who would get a contract worth less then their value, Black had every right to be upset with the one year, $1.6 million dollar offer. Don Mattingly, who had just been hired by the Marlins, had received a 4 year, $10 million dollar contract earlier in the month. This is where the owner deserves to take some flak. Knowing how to handle contract negotiations and knowing how to come to a common agreement is an important tool for any owner, Manager or General Manager. When intentions are good but communication/bargaining skills are poor, it can lead to some frustrating and disappointing results as seen by the non-hire of Black.

Speaking of disappointment, let’s move on to another controversial breakdown in communication in baseball this week, Alex Anthopoulos. Known as AA to his fanbase, his contract for General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays was up for renewal this year. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly to some, he turned down an extension offer despite having no other jobs lined up. The question is why? What happened that caused AA to turn down this contract extension? Well, the key explanation seems to be his role with the club regarding new President of Baseball Operations, Mark Shapiro. This article from the National Post does a good job of outlining some key concepts in the debate. Shapiro seemed to want to have full decision making autonomy with regards to his position, something that have previously belonged to Alex. In this case, it seems as though AA would have been more of a figurehead then an important decision makes. In the end, it was Rogers Corporation, owner of the Jays, and Ed Rogers, CEO of Rogers Corporation, that took flak for botching both the handling of contract discussions and for hiring Shapiro, who comes into a new role as the major villain in this storyline.

So who really is at fault for both situations? Both deal with hiring of employees by owners with negotiations that went sour

Nicknamed AA, Alex did not agree with Rogers and Shapiro's vision for the Blue Jays.

Nicknamed AA, Alex did not agree with Rogers and Shapiro’s vision for the Blue Jays.

quickly. I think it’s hard to blame all the fault on owners. Black could have looked past the slight and looked to negotiate on better terms and Alex could have signed the three year deal on the table and then opted out after this first year if he was unhappy, something that was more then possible. I believe that what really killed these deals is a lack of proper communication. Lerner never expressed how important Black would be the club and by low balling his offer, he gave off the impression that Black was not worth a decent wage. Rogers did not clearly outline Alex’s role with the club moving forward and it was only at the very end, when Shapiro looked to negotiate a contract, did Alex express his discomfort with losing autonomous decision making ability.

In terms of sports managers then, these are two good case studies in communication. For any manager or owner to be successful, being able to communicate to potential employees outside your organization and within your organization is key to being successful. Creating an organization that thrives on open communication is important when looking to implement one’s own managerial philosophy. In both cases demonstrated here, both Manager and General Manager felt like the owner’s philosophy did not align with their’s, and they left. In this case, both owners received flak for the move but this can happen to anyone within any sports organizations. It is up to managers to develop a consistent line of communication so that employees feel both valued and wanted, and to align the entire organization.

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