Do baseball players perform worse in years where they perceive themselves to be under-compensated?

Submitted by: Anonymous

Yes, baseball players do perform worse in years where they perceive themselves to be under-compensated. While the bulk of the studies in this list for which we identified answers agrees with this conclusion, some studies came to different conclusions. We encourage you to consider each of the studies for yourself to understand why they differ.
*Note that the latest study on this question is over 20 years old. A more recent study may provide a more relevant answer.
This short answer was generated by aggregating the answers that each of the 6 studies below gave to the question (as indicated by State of K members) and adjusting for source quality and other factors. If key studies are missing or the answers attributed to individual studies are incorrect, the above answer could be wrong.

Chart summary of 6 studies examining this question

All answers are assigned by State of K users. The label Mixed means that a study found some evidence to indicate that the answer to the question is "yes" and some evidence to indicate that the answer is "no". This label is often applied when a study uses two or more proxies to study the same phenomenon (i.e. firearm sales figures and self-reported firearm ownership rates as proxies for the prevalence of firearms) and the proxies yield different results when looking for correlations with another phenomenon (i.e. firearm-related deaths). Alternatively, the label may be applied if the phenomenon under study (i.e. whether breast milk improves cognitive function) is true for one group, but not another (i.e. true for girls, but not for boys). The label Insuff. Evidence means that a study found there was insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion regarding the question. The label No Data means that State of K wasn't able to identify the study's response to the question based on the information that was available. This label is often applied when the person creating the list does not have access to the full text and the answer isn't clear from the abstract.

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Do baseball players seeking a new contract perform better in the final year of their current contract?
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Fair or Foul?: The Effects of External, Internal, and Employee Equity on Changes in Performance of Major League Baseball Players
"We propose six hypotheses that relate employee,internal, and external inequities to changes inperformance. We test these hypotheses with a sample of362 Major League Baseball players. The findings showed that overpayment (as measured by actualemployee and external inequities) is a significantpredictor of positive performance changes, underpaymentis a significant predictor of negative performancechanges, and employee equity is a greater predictor ofchange in performance than internal equity."
Steve Werner
Neal P. Mero
1999 in Human Relations
Perceived equity, motivation, and final-offer arbitration in major league baseball.
"Final-offer salary arbitration in major league baseball offers a unique institutional arrangement that creates a naturally occurring, non-equivalent-groups, repeated measures research design. The structural arrangements allow for examination of anticipatory expectancy effects and assessment of behavioral responses consistent with equity theory predictions. In addition, equity theory can be tested without the methodological problems inherent in defining the referent other. Performance and mobility were examined for major league baseball position players who won and lost their arbitration hearings. Prearbitration performance significantly predicted arbitration outcome. A significant relationship was noted between losing arbitration and postarbitration performance decline. Losers were significantly more likely to change teams and leave major league baseball. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)"
Robert D. Bretz
Steven L. Thomas
1992 in Journal of Applied Psychology
Equity theory versus expectancy theory: The case of major league baseball free agents.
"Equity theory and expectancy theory make different predictions under conditions of perceived underreward coupled with strong performance-outcome expectancies. A synthesis of these theories is proposed: Equity performance effects depended on the strength of the performance–outcome expectancy. Free-agent nonpitchers in the 1977–1980 baseball seasons were compared with a random sample of nonpitchers. These free agents probably felt underrewarded before entering the free-agent market yet probably also had expectations of higher salaries after becoming free agents. These competing motivations were hypothesized to affect individual performance. Two types of performance were assessed. Batting average, which had a weaker relation to salary outcome declined in the year before free agency, whereas home run ratio, which had a stronger relation with salary outcome, did not decline. These results are consistent with the proposed synthesis. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)"
Joseph W. Harder
1991 in Journal of Applied Psychology
The Effects of Final-Offer Arbitration on the Performance of Major League Baseball Players: A Test of Equity Theory
"This study examined potential motivational processes of major league baseball players participating in final-offer arbitration. For baseball players, finaloffer arbitration entails both the player and the team management submitting a nonnegotiable salary figure to an impartial arbitrator. Based on the evidence proferred by the respective parties, the arbitrator adopts either the player's or team's salary figure as the player's compensation for the upcoming season. Using an equity theory perspective, we found support for the prediction that postarbitration player performance was linked to the arbitrator's decision and to the discrepancy between the player's salary request and the team's salary offer. The study's results were discussed in terms of general implications for equity-theory research."
Neil M.A. Hauenstein
Robert G. Lord
1989 in Human Performance
Equity and the performance of major league baseball players: An extension of Lord and Hohenfeld.
"Extended R. G. Lord and J. G. Hohenfeld's (see record 1980-13102-001) assessment of equity effects on the performance of major league baseball players. The sample is expanded to include 30 (average age 30.6 yrs) players in the 1st 3 free-agent reentry drafts and to include comparisons with teammates and a sample of 30 (average age 29.5 yrs) traded players. Equity theory predictions of decrements in performance during a year of undercompensation were not supported. Performance of free agents was also found to be not significantly different from that of either teammates or traded players. Sample differences are identified, and results are interpreted within an expectancy theory, as well as an equity theory, framework. (4 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)"
Dennis Duchon
Arthur G. Jago
1981 in Journal of Applied Psychology
Longitudinal field assessment of equity effects on the performance of major league baseball players.
"A time-series analysis was used to test predictions based on equity theory in a naturally occurring experiment involving 23 major league baseball players who began the 1976 season without contracts. It was posited that due to historical changes in the reserve system, these players would perceive themselves as undercompensated relative to salient others, and due to substantial reductions in salary as compared to their 1975 compensation, they would also perceive themselves as undercompensated relative to self-referents from the previous year. Such perceptions should produce lower performance. This hypothesis was supported for performance as measured by batting average, home runs, and runs batted in but not for runs scored."
Robert G. Lord
Jeffrey A. Hohenfeld
1979 in Journal of Applied Psychology