Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2012


Great Plains Research 22 (Fall 2012):137-45


© 2012 Copyright by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


On-field conversations and confrontations between baseball coaches and umpires have long been a part of the game. An umpire's decision can alter the course of the game, but little has been written about the exchanges between a coach or manager and umpire, especially in relation to theoretical considerations. This study applies management and leadership theories in exploring the strategies baseball coaches use to contest an umpire's decision. By using leadership scholar John E. Barbuto's concept of influence tactics and the various types of social power discussed by sociologists John R. French and Bertram Raven, the study also tests the congruence theory that baseball imitates the workplace. The investigators interviewed six high school and six college baseball coaches in Iowa and Nebraska and found that the strategies used by coaches to dispute calls can be categorized into five tenets: (1) coaches say it's their duty to question umpires and to keep their players from arguing with umpires; (2) coaches expect umpires to use their fellow crew members to help during close calls and to admit their mistakes; (3) coaches say they can help their cause by showing respect for umpires and building positive relationships with them; (4) coaches believe that discretion is important in deciding when they should argue a call; and (5) coaches say their arguments aren't meant to reverse a call but to prevent the umpire from making the same mistake later in the game or in future games. Such strategies are also used in the workplace by managers who want to influence employees or fellow managers, thus reinforcing the congruence theory and demonstrating the similarities between baseball and the workplace. Future research should examine the umpire's perspective during disputed calls and whether the approaches used by high school and college coaches are the same as those used by managers of professional baseball teams.