The contract year syndrome in the NBA and MLB: A classic undermining pattern
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
We assembled National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball player performance data from recent years, tracking 3 year periods in players’ careers: pre-contract year (baseline), contract year (CY; salient external incentive present), and post-contract year (salient external incentive removed). In both sports, we examined both individual scoring statistics (points scored, batting average) and non-scoring statistics (e.g. blocked shots, fielding percentage) over the 3 years. Using extrinsic motivation theories, we predicted and found a boost in some scoring statistics during the CY (relative to the pre-CY), but no change in non-scoring statistics. Using intrinsic motivation theories, we predicted and found an undermining of many statistics in the post-CY, relative to both the CY and the pre-CY baseline. Boosted CY scoring performance predicted post-CY salary raises in both sports, but salary raises were largely unrelated to post-CY performance. The CY performance boost is real, but team managers should know that it might be followed by a performance crash—the CY “syndrome.”
- Aschburner, S. (2011, August 19). NBA’s ‘average’ salary—$5.15M—A trendy, touchy subject. Retrieved from http://www.nba.com/2011/news/features/steve_aschburner/08/19/average-salary/index.html.
- Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman.
- Basco, D., & Zimmerman, J. (2010). Measuring defense: Entering the zones of fielding statistics. The Baseball Research Journal, 39(1).
- Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1252–1265. CrossRef
- Behling, O., & Starke, F. A. (1973). The postulates of expectancy theory. Academy of Management Journal, 16(3), 373–388. CrossRef
- Berri, D. J., Brook, S. L., & Schmidt, M. B. (2007). Does one simply need to score to score? International Journal of Sport Finance, 2(4), 190–205.
- Berri, D. J., & Krautmann, A. C. (2006). Shirking on the court: Testing for the incentive effects of guaranteed pay. Economic Inquiry, 44(3), 536–546. CrossRef
- Clarkson, J. J., Hirt, E. R., Chapman, A. D., & Jia, L. (2010). The impact of illusory fatigue on executive control: Do perceptions of depletion impair working memory capacity? Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(3), 231–238. CrossRef
- Coon, L. (2013, February 18). NBA salary cap FAQ. Retrieved from http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#62.
- Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18(1), 105–115. CrossRef
- Deci, E. L. (1975). Intrinsic motivation. New York: Plenum. CrossRef
- Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125(6), 627–668. CrossRef
- Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human heavier. New York: Plenum. CrossRef
- Frey, B. S., & Osterloh, M. (Eds.). (2002). Successful management by motivation: Balancing intrinsic and extrinsic incentives. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.
- Helin, K. (2012, September 12). Tyreke Evans promises a big year. Coincidentally, it’s his contract year. Retrieved from http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/09/12/tyreke-evans-promises-a-big-year-coincidentally-its-his-contract-year/.
- Heneman, H. G., I. I. I., & Schwab, D. P. (1972). Evaluation of research on expectancy theory predictions of employee performance. Psychological Bulletin, 78(1), 1–9. CrossRef
- Holden, E. C., & Sommers, P. M. (2005). The influence of free-agent filing on MLB player performance. Atlantic Economic Journal, 33(4), 489. CrossRef
- Hollinger, J. (2011, August 11). What is PER? Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&id=2850240.
- Jenkins, G. D., Jr, Mitra, A., Gupta, N., & Shaw, J. D. (1998). Are financial incentives related to performance? A meta-analytic review of empirical research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(5), 777–787. CrossRef
- Jex, S. M., & Britt, T. W. (2008). Organizational psychology: A scientist-practitioner approach (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Kennedy, A. (2012, October 2). NBA PM: Players to watch in contract year. Retrieved from http://www.hoopsworld.com/nba-pm-players-to-watch-in-contract-year.
- Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Krautmann, A. C., & Donley, T. D. (2009). Shirking in major league baseball revisited. Journal of Sports Economics, 10(3), 292–304. CrossRef
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78. CrossRef
- Rymer, Z. D. (2013, April 17). How much do pressure, incentive motivate stars in an MLB contract year? Retrieved from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1607688-how-much-do-pressure-incentive-motivate-stars-in-an-mlb-contract-year.
- Sharp, A. (2011, April 5). Jamal Crawford thinks you should be grateful he’s not being selfish. Retrieved from http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2011/4/5/2091668/jamal-crawford-atlanta-hawks-statistics.
- Stiroh, K. J. (2007). Playing for keeps: Pay and performance in the NBA. Economic Inquiry, 45(1), 145–161. CrossRef
- Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. New York: Wiley.
- The contract year syndrome in the NBA and MLB: A classic undermining pattern
Motivation and Emotion
Volume 38, Issue 2 , pp 196-205
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer US
- Additional Links
- Intrinsic motivation
- Extrinsic motivation
- Self-determination theory
- Industry Sectors