ORGL 500 – Organizational Leadership
February 15, 2009
In the last decade uncertain rules and regulations regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs have tainted the Major League Baseball association. A game regarded as the nation’s pastime has been flooded with both speculation and fact regarding the use of steroids casting a shadow over the MLB, its players, and fans. As figure head and commissioner, Bud Selig among other commisioners endured the dichotomous role of preserving the MLB as a business, and maintaining a game of integrity and significant historical context. The players within the organization have suffered from a lack of static policy and will be forever scrutinized by fans, and in some instances penalized under a court of law. Baseball legends such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are at the center of this scandal, facing federal indictment, and a once certain call to the hall of fame hanging in the balance (Wilson, 2007). As a result the legitimacy of records in the steroids era in addition to the integrity of all involved personal may leave a footprint larger than the game itself.
In this paper I will examine this problem through the lens of each of the five organizational frames (rational, human, system, political, and cultural; Carey, 2005) and interpret its effect as it pertains to league personnel, and players. I will discuss how an effective leader could have handled this issue by balancing the five frames in an effort to preserve the integrity, fan-following and historical significance of the MLB.
Before 2002 Major League Baseball had no official policy on steroid use among players. As part of a collective bargaining agreement, players and owners agreed to hold survey testing in 2003 (Fainaru-Wada, 2006). This lack of policy coincides with the goals of an organization leader gazing through the lens of the rational frame (Carey, 2005). Private interests are put aside in the effort to reach organizational goals. After the 1994 season was ended just before the all-star break due to a players strike, the MLB faced the challenge of regaining the interest of the public. This process was slow and uncertain at times, making the primary focus of the MLB to win fans over and reenter the national spotlight and the hearts of Americans. The interests of individual players and baseball purists were second tier to the objectives of the MLB. Historically the rational frame suggests “private goals were of private interest, but organizational goals had more of a public claim and were viewed as inevitable” (p. 2). The MLB’s responsibility to the public was to entertain, their responsibility to themselves to make money; the means by which players performed ensuring both was of no immediate or known consequence within the rational frame.
The lack of a steroid policy was in the best interest of the MLB and its primary objective within the rational frame. The steroid era was also the homerun era; the return of baseball is often attributed to the 1998 homerun chase, between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa that resulted in both players breaking Roger Maris’ long-standing and highly coveted record of 61 homeruns. The average attendance in 1998 was the then highest in MLB history, 29,054 (Tygiel, 2007). McGuire, Sosa, and all players alike were tools and instruments used for achieving the MLB’s goals. The MLB reached its primary objective in restoring baseball to its pre-strike form, justifying it within the lens of the rational frame.
With a continued rise in attendance, ratings, and financial well being, the second principle of the rational frame seemed evident; “for every organization and every environment there is a best possible structure and process (Carey, 2005, p, 6). Homerun totals soared to never before seen heights. In 2001 Barry Bonds hit 73 homeruns, 23 more homeruns than he had ever hit in a single season. Bonds re-signed with the Giants for a five-year, $90 million contract in January 2002 (Papps, 2009). This was one of the many major contracts resulting from the MLB’s strive toward fiscal success and restoration of fan following. In 2006, new stadiums, exciting pennant races, and better marketing helped clubs collectively earn a record operating income of nearly $496 million, according to Forbes.com (Pappas, 2009).
It is within the human frame that the MLB is negligent. Rather than focusing on an end objective “the first principle and operating premise of the human frame, then, is that the organization is a vehicle for satisfying healthy human needs”(Carey, 2005, p. 9). Within the human frame a policy prohibiting steroids would have been put in place independent of the MLB’s organizational goals. As early as 1990, Congress toughened its stance with the Anabolic Steroids Control Act, placing steroids in the same legal class as amphetamines, methamphetamines, opium and morphine (Fainaru-Wada, 2006). In 1991 MLB announced that steroids had been added to the banned substance list, yet no testing plan was announced (Fainaru-Wada, 2006). The MLB recognized the health and well-being of its members, yet offered no proposal for ensuring those needs be met. It wasn’t until 2002 that players and owners agreed to their first joint drug program since 1985 (Fainaru-Wada, 2006). In 2003 Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler collapsed on the field during a workout in Florida and died from heat exhaustion; the medical examiner found ephedra in his system. The MLB placed ephedra on the list of banned drugs at the minor league level (Fainaru-Wada, 2006).
This response demonstrates a strong contradiction with the second principle of the human frame; “organizations and individuals need each other” (Carey, 2005, p.11). A member of their organization’s death is linked to a performing enhancing drug and their response is to ban the drug at the minor league level. This does not demonstrate a commitment to the need of players within their organization, rather a face-saving temporary protocol. It is within this second principle that a flaw is revealed in the MLB’s decision making process under the rational frame. Carey states “people are essential to organizations as well, especially when these people are motivated to satisfy their higher-level needs, since the attainment of organizational goals is dependent upon the effective work of individuals” (p. 11). While the MLB may have reached organizational goals, at what cost were they achieved in respects to the individuals? In 2007 Barry Bonds was indicted on five felony counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he testified he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs (Fainaru-Wada). If convicted, legal experts say Bonds could spend up to 2½ years in prison (Fainaru-Wada, 2006). A federal grand jury has convened in Washington, D.C., to determine whether to indict Roger Clemens for lying under oath to Congress when he denied taking performance-enhancing drugs (Fish, 2009). With his Hall of Fame candidacy potentially hanging in the balance, Clemens told the House committee: “I have never taken steroids or HGH. No matter what we discuss here today, I am never going to have my name restored” (p. 1).
The third principle of the human frame contends that organizational needs should integrate with individual needs as individual’s needs and goals directly relate to the success of the organization. In acknowledging the needs of the individual an organization benefits from the talents and abilities of that individual and helps the organization attain its goals. While the MLB achieved certain goals such as financial restoration and popularity amongst fans, each day new allegations and facts are emerging in the case against players and the use of performing enhancement drugs. Most recently, Alex Rodriguez, arguably the game’s best player tested positive for and confessed to using two anabolic steroids in 2003. Prior to the 2003 season Rodriguez signed a record setting 270 million dollar contract, he was named the MVP in 2003 (Fish, 2009). Although he is unlikely to face criminal charges, Rodriguez has become another player cast in the shadow of doubt. The MLB’s goal to preserve the integrity and historical significance of the game has been compromised. Experts, fans, and players a like call into question the legitimacy of statistics and records recorded by players suspected or found guilty of the use of steroids. Most recently Bud Selig told USA Today that he is considering reinstating Hank Aaron as the HR king (Fish, 2009). While there is zero probability of this happening, the very mention of it demonstrates the damage done to the organization as a direct result of ignoring the best interests of its individual members.
Maslow’s hierarchy (Carey, 2005, p.10) of human needs helps gain insight into the motivations behind player’s use of steroids. He believed that human behavior was a result of the effort to satisfy a building block model of needs. Carey (2005) states,
Maslow believed that these needs were developmentally arranged; so that an individual would not seek to meet higher level needs until lower level ones had been reasonably satisfied. Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs was, in ascending order: physiological needs; safety needs; belongingness and love needs; esteem needs; and self-actualization needs. (p. 10)
Needs would be progressively satisfied, seizing until the most innate is realized. In the case of Barry Bonds for example, physiological and safety needs were not the issue, rather the need for love, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. Bond’s grew frustrated with the growing attention McGuire received in the ’98 home run chase; he believed he was a much better player but McGuire was getting all of the attention because he had used steroids and was hitting monstrous homeruns (Fainaru-Wada, 2006). In the words of Parker Palmer, Bonds was “someone who understands where the mysteries lie, rather than someone who mystifies” (p. 108). With this knowledge, and the MLB’s non-existent steroid policy, Bond’s was compelled to receive due recognition and leave his mark as the greatest to ever play the game. Bond’s was certain he was better than McGuire, but without the recognition of the community, he could not ascend on his hierarchy of needs. For Palmer, “the Inner life of any great thing will be incomprehensible to me until I develop and deepen an inner life of my own” (1998, p. 113). Prior to the 2000 season, and Bond’s alleged use of steroids, his accomplishments placed him amongst the game’s greatest players of all time, yet still he was unsatisfied. Palmer continues, “the conclusion seems clear: we cannot know the great things of the universe until we know ourselves to be great things” (p. 113). For Bonds it was a constant struggle between absolutism and relativism, being the best, and not being as good as somebody else in the spotlight. Never satisfied, the MLB left the door wide open for the means to be bigger, and better.
The MLB’s initial struggle to recover from a strike in 1994 accurately portrayed the hierarchy of needs as an organization. The strike left fans devastated and angry with baseball. Attendance was down, increasing conjecture of the great demise of the nation’s past time was published and on the minds of MLB personnel. Many believed baseball would never recover from the player’s strike, threatening its basic need for survival. Without survival, the safety of personnel’s financial well-being was at risk and there on up. The MLB slowly rebounded securing the most basic needs growing from there after. Eventually baseball experienced never before seen success and had no intention of turning away billions of dollars in profit. The MLB’s self-actualizing needs dominated its responsibility to individual members and until recently eliminated it all-together.
The systems frame (Carey, 2005) “focuses on inter-connectedness, the acknowledgment that no social structure is self-sufficient or self-contained” (p. 16). The premise of the systems frame is that an organization’s system is dynamic; decisions must reflect adjustments to the emergent, or arising new characteristics of a situation. In the systems frame there is an open channel of information between system and environment. This relation allows an interdependence which calls for the mutual conversion of inputs to outputs; the result being a never ending process of adjustment. Carey identifies and associates this process with cybernetics, “the science of determining how to avoid errors by making constant adjustments as new information is received” (p. 17). Constant adjustment within an organization is likened to a biological system, inhaling and exhaling with the import and export of energy, a kind of homeostasis that prevents irrelevance and being outdated (Carey, 2005).
The systems frame is evident in the MLB’s dynamic steroid policy. Despite an elongated evolution, league personnel have constantly readjusted their policy satisfying a variety of environmental inputs. Primarily, the U.S. Senate in response to the Mitchell Report: a report to the commissioner of baseball of an independent investigation into the illegal use of steroids and other performance enhancing substances by players in major league baseball (Mitchell, 2007). The “Mitchell Report”, is the result of former United States Senator George J. Mitchell’s 20-month investigation into the use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone in Major League Baseball. The 409-page report, released on December 13, 2007, covers the history of the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances by players and the effectiveness of the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The report also advances certain recommendations regarding the handling of past illegal drug use and future prevention practices. With arising allegations, means to advanced science and performing enhancement, and pressures to perform, the Mitchell Report is only the beginning of the MLB’s systematic adjustments; it must seek alternative ailments for the need within players to use steroids in the first place.
The political frame (Carey, 2005) opposes the rational, human, and systems frame in it’s stance on conflict, and organizational goals. For the political frame conflict is a direct and inevitable result of organization itself, and can be embraced and used by an individual in a position of power and facility at any given time. Shifts in power may indicate the shift or undermining of organizations goals. It is built on the premise “that and organization is bound together by the scarcity of resources” (p. 22). While the political frame acknowledges that the scarcity of resources in and of itself would not motivate behavior within an organization; the second principle recognizes that organizations are formed through coalitions made of individuals and interest groups with varying opinions, preferences, and perceptions of reality (p. 25). Because organizational goals are not assumed, groups within an organization must negotiate precedence in respects to each group’s power. This leads to the third principle of the political frame, “organizational goals and behavior emerge from ongoing processes of bargaining and negotiation” (p. 26). The political frame can be identified in the players collective bargaining agreement with MLB. Both the players and the MLB have union representatives by which their mutual interests are negotiated to reach a collective agreement regarding an effective yet lawful policy to enforce the use of performing enhancement drugs. In the political frame, the MLB can be viewed to have negotiated the well-being of its players for the well-being of the organization. While current members of its organization suffer allegations and criminal charges, the organization itself does not face such threats. The financial well-being of the MLB has not suffered from the degradation of integrity, historical context, and the private interests of individual members.
The Cultural Frame (Carey, 2005) manager interprets all behavior and decisions in reflection of both the individual’s desire for meaning, and the group’s cultural development of this need for meaning (Carey, 2005). The Cultural frame differs from all others in that “it does not fit into a certain and rational world” (p.29). Solving a problem in the cultural frame involves the assumption of its first principle, “the organization is a culture through which meaning is constructed for participants” (p.30). Through the cultural frame the organizational goals of player and personnel are revealed to synthesize as one. The realization of the goals of the MLB ensured the success and financial well-being of its individual members. A non-existent policy regarding the use of performing enhancement drugs helped facilitate some of the largest contracts in sports history. Through the a cultural frame, the MLB can contend that it was meeting the immediate best interest of private members, and current allegations and legal troubles are a direct reflection of their private interests. This leads to and supports the second principle of the cultural frame, “organizational culture is made up of the basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by the members of an organization” (p.31). If the use of steroids was believed to be a major issue amongst players and personnel, under the cultural frame it can be argued that a push for and formation of a substantial steroid policy would have occurred. The third principle sets in stones this concept, “organizational culture is reflected in the observed behavioral regularities, norms, values, philosophy, rules of the game, and feeling or climate of the organization” (p.31). In an article by Los Angeles Times sports writer Bob Nightengale, Padres Tony Gwynn states: “It’s like the big secret we’re not supposed to talk about” (Fainaru-Wada, 2006). The widespread prevalence and indifference toward the use of steroids in baseball created a culture of nonchalant drug use, don’t ask don’t tell, to which only now the MLB has been forced to take responsibility for.
The five frames (Carey, 2005) as individual frames of references fail to accurately represent the needs of an organization and its members. In the rational frame the MLB risks the long term well-being of its members. Despite an organization’s end goals an effective leader must establish a steroid policy that articulates a clear and articulate vision, making evident a clear link between the vision, its need, and a credible strategy for attaining it (Yukl, 2001). In contrast, if a leader focused too heavily on the human frame, it would risk its systematic success as a business. A clear doctrine regarding the use of steroids would eliminate the need for players to associate large contracts with the needs to perform outside of their god-given ability. In addition to, players such as Bond’s would not have reason to question the legitimacy of another player’s success, pushing them to seek an extra-edge. Leaders within a systems frame will strive to evolve as the needs of the organization and its environment continue to change. This would ensure the integrity and historical significance of the organization is maintained in reflection of both the organization and its environment. Leaders within a political frame fail to serve the organization as a fully functioning system with many equally important components. Through sacrificing profit for the long-term well being of players, the MLB puts its organization as a living breathing whole in a situation to flourish. Leaders within a cultural lens must make decisions that not only reflect organizational culture, but help dictate that culture as it pertains to the best interests of the organization. A clear policy regarding the use of steroids in the MLB flushes out the consensus feeling of nonchalance and indifference, thus resulting in a culture that asks questions, gets answers, fully aware of its organizations stance on the use of steroids.
These fives frames are in a constant flux of interdependence; it is only within the framework of a particular organization that an appropriate balance can be found.
Fainaru-Wada, M. (2006). Game of Shadows. San Francisco, CA: Penguin Group.
Fish, M. (2009). Grand Jury to Ponder Clemens Testimony. February 14, 2009 http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3827421
Mitchell, J. (2007). The Mitchell Report
Palmer, P. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Papps, D. (2002). The Numbers. February 16, 2009 http://www.baseballprospectus.com/
Tygiel, J. (2005). The History and Literature of Baseball. February 10, 2009 http://bss.sfsu.edu/tygiel/hist490/490s2005online.html
Wilson, D. (2007). Bonds Charged With Perjury in Steroids Case. February 13, 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/16/sports/baseball/16bonds.html?_r=1
Yukl, G. (2001). Leadership in organizations. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall.