Major League Baseball

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Major League Baseball or (MLB) is an American-based sports league, considered to be the world's premier professional baseball league. MLB contains 30 professional baseball teams (29 in the United States and 1 in Canada), which feature players from many countries around the world. In the United States, MLB is considered an Organization and Legal Entity. MLB itself is divided into two separate "leagues". One, the American League, has 14 teams; the older National League has 16 teams. Each league is divided into three "divisions": East, West, and Central.

History

Early History(1871-1903)

The roots of Major League Baseball go back to 1871 when the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs was founded, eventually leading to the National League that we know today in 1876.

Until the end of the 19th Century, the National League was considered the predominant professional baseball organization, excluding some challengers such as the American Association and the Players League in the 1880s. The turn of the century changed this with a new "Major League" called the American League, which was created from a former minor league called the Western League. Because the National League was created before the American League, the National League is sometimes referred to as the "Senior Circuit", with the American League being the "Junior Circuit".

The two leagues would not recognize each other until 1903 when the two leagues determined a combined champion through a series of games known as the World Series, first conducted intermittently in the 1880s between the champions of the National League and the American Association. The winner of the World Series has been declared the champion of Major League Baseball every year since, excluding 1904 when John T. Brush, the owner of the New York Giants, refused to allow his team to play what he considered to be an inferior opponent, and in 1994, when a labor stoppage between the Players Union and the owners of Major League Baseball forced a cancellation of the series.[1]

The Color Bar

African American players had played alongside whites in the early days of baseball. However, in the modern era the Major Leagues barred black players, who competed in their own Negro League. This color bar persisted until 1947, when Jackie Robinson forever changed the face of Major League Baseball.

Expansion outside the U.S.

In 1969, MLB expanded outside the border of the United States for the first time with the creation of the Montreal Expos. French-language broadcasters had to invent a whole new lexicon to describe the game to fans. The team was popular with fans, both at its first home at Jarry Park Stadium and later at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. However, a player strike in 1994 crippled a season that saw the Expos on top of baseball. The franchise never recovered from that fateful season, regularly seeing some of the lowest attendance in the league at their games. In 2001, the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, announced that Major League Baseball would be contracting two teams, one of them being the Montreal Expos. Later, a new collective bargaining agreement between baseball and it's players eliminated the possibility of contraction prior to 2006. This forced MLB to seek out different options for the faltering franchise. In 2004, the final season that saw Major League Baseball in Montreal, the team played several of their "home" games in Puerto Rico. Eventually, the league was able to find a buyer for the team, and the franchise was moved to Washington, D.C., changing the team's name to the Nationals[2] [3]

The league further expanded outside of the U.S. with the addition of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977. Currently, the Blue Jays still reside in there.

Inter-league play

Prior to 1997, teams from the two leagues in MLB never met in the regular season. The only time that teams from different leagues would meet would be in the preseason, the World Series, or in exhibition games. The decision to have inter-league games was met with mixed reaction. Some fans thought that the prospect of some of the match-ups, such as the New York Mets, who are in the National League, and the New York Yankees, who play in the American League, was enthralling. Other more traditional fans of the sport felt that the change was unnecessary.

Steroid Era

Over most of the course of Major League Baseball, there were no rules governing the use of performance enhancing drugs. Public scrutiny arose during the 1998 season, when a bottle of androstenedione, an over the counter muscle building supplement was found in Mark McGwire's locker. In 2002, an article ran in Sports Illustrated in which former San Diego Padres third baseman and former MVP Ken Caminiti admitted to using steroids and speculated that as many as 50% of major league players were doing the same. The MLB Players Association, the players union, steadfastly refused to allow players to be drug tested. As a result, a Senate subcomittee headed by John McCain and Byron Dorgan strongly suggested to MLB Players Association head Donald Fehr enter into an agreement with MLB to allow drug testing. On August 30, 2002, MLB announced it's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The program was weak and seen as a victory for the player's union, calling only for random drug surveys and anonymity for those tested. However, in December 2003, several prominent baseball players including Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi were called to testify in front of a grand jury investigating BALCO, which was indicted for distributing steroids to professional athletes. The public outcry surrounding the trial forced Major League Baseball to stiffen the policy.

The new policy, which was started during the 2005 MLB season, tested every player at least once per season, with additional random tests throughout the year, and featured a sliding scale of penalties ranging from a 10 game suspension for the first positive test result, up to a full season's suspension for a fourth offense. Further offenses were handled by the commissioner. Also, offenders under the new policy were publicly named, if, after an appealed second test also came back positive.

This policy lasted less than one full year. In November of 2005, the owners and players agreed on a new, even tougher steroid policy. This one allowed for only three offenses. The first resulting in a 50 game suspension, the second in a 100 game suspension, and a third offense would lead to a lifetime suspension from MLB. This policy brought MLB a lot closer to many other sports in terms of how performance-enhancing drugs are handled.

In 2006, Commissioner Bud Selig appointed former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to head an independent investigation into the reported abuse of performance enhancing drugs. The findings, known as the Mitchell Report, were released to the public on December 13, 2007. The report listed over 70 former and current players who were linked to these drugs, including some of the leagues premier players.

Labor relations

From very early on, Major League Baseball and its players have had a factious relationship. In an effort to gain some momentum in their disagreements with the owners, the players formed a labor union in 1954. This union, known as the Major League Baseball Players Association or, MLBPA, got off to a slow start. Likely due in part to the MLBPA's first Director, Robert Cannon's friendly relationship with the owners, the owners and the players did not function under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) until 1968, after the hiring of the MLBPA's first full time head man, Marvin Miller. This first agreement made some small concessions in favor of the players, including an increase in the minimum salaries. The next deal was agreed on in 1970, with some more gains made by the players.

The first major point of contention would between the two sides would be first negotiated in the 1973 CBA. The issue was free-agency, or weather or not the players would have the right to go to any team in baseball after the end of a contract, instead of the rights to sign a player staying with the same team, unless that team chose to forego those rights. What started the disagreement was the "reserve clause" that was put into the contract of every player. The debate was weather this clause allowed the teams to renew the player's contract indefinitely, or, if after playing a year without the players renewal, this contract automatically expired. An arbitrator, Peter Seitz, would rule in favor of the players. This led to the first work-stoppage, with the owners locking the players out until late March of 1976 when a federal judge would uphold Seitz's decision.

Despite restrictions on how often and with whom the players were allowed to negotiate a free agent contact, the average player's salary skyrocketed, going from $51,501 to $143,756 annually in just 4 years. This led to a new proposal from the owners, the right to be compensated, in the form of a different player, for a player leaving for another team. This was met by severe resistance from the players' union. An agreement was eventually reached between the two sides, but not before 712 games of the 1980 season were canceled. The compensation system that was put in place was confusing for all involved, but especially for the fans, and it was dropped with little ado in the next CBA negotiations in 1985.

Another part of the 1985 discussions centered around salary arbitration. With the arbitration system, if a player and a team cannot agree on a contract prior to that player is eligible for free-agency, they may submit to binding arbitration. The owners wanted to reduce the numbers of arbitration eligible players by raising the threshold for arbitration from two years to three. They also sought to cap the increase in salary that an arbitrator could award. The players again struck. Two days after the strike, the two sides reached a compromise and a new, five-year CBA was reached.

During the 1985 CBA, the owners were accused by the players of collusion. After having lost some ground in the CBA, the owners decided amongst themselves to not sign one-another's free agents. This was a clear violation of the CBA, and after several arbitrations, the owners ultimately paid the player $280 million in compensation.

When negotiations for the new CBA started in 1990, several of the owners drew a hard-line. Making demands to win back some of the concessions they had made in previous agreements. The players, in response made several new demands of their own, including pushing back the arbitration threshold to the 2 year mark it had been prior to 1985. The owners locked the players out, causing the third work stoppage in baseball in 15 years. This stoppage lasted 32 days, after which the owners dropped their demands, and even gave into some of the players' proposals.

The owners blamed much of what happened during the 1990 CBA on then commissioner Fay Vincent. Several of the owners moved to force Vincent out, and steeled themselves for the next negotiations. These negotiations started in 1994, with the owners proposing a salary cap, which, if enforced, would have resulted in a collective 15% pay cut for the players. This move infuriated the players, forcing them to strike on August 12, 1994. Several weeks later, the players proposed a counter offer, which included revenue sharing, and a small luxury tax, but no salary cap. The owners held their ground, and the rest of the season, including the 1994 playoffs and World Series were canceled. The next season did start on time, but not before a federal judge forced the owners to play under the same rules as the previous agreement, until a new one was reached. This new agreement was not reached until 1996. The owners gained significant ground in the new agreement, which included a steep luxury tax for the teams with the highest payrolls and increased revenue sharing.

Before negotiations started for the 2002 CBA, the owners, led by commissioner Bud Selig, put a commission in place to help determine what would be in the best interest for baseball. This commission's recommendations became, in large part, the new agreement reached by both sides. This agreement was reached with no work stoppage. Since that time, the players and the owners have butted heads in the realm of performance-enhancing drugs, and the ways that they are tested for and abusers punished, but each of the several agreements reached regarding this drug policy has been reached with no work stoppages.[4] [5]

League Structure

Each of the 30 teams plays a 162 game season every year. The schedules lean heavily towards an intra-divisional schedule. A team may play another team in the same division as many as 18 or 19 times in a year, while only playing a team in a different division 5 or 6 times throughout the roughly 6 month long season. Most of a team's schedule is against teams in the same league. A team will play a few games against every team in their own league, but only play against 4 or 5 teams from the opposite league.

After the regular season is complete, the leading teams move on to the playoffs. The division leader from each division, and the single best second place team from each league, known as the "wild card" moves on. The division leaders are seeded in 1st through 3rd place based on their regular season records, and the wild card team is seeded 4th. The teams then play each other in a best-of-5 series, where the 1st seed and the 4th seed play against each other and the 2nd and 3rd seeds compete. This assumes that the two teams playing each other are not from the same division, if they are, then the match ups are changed. The two winners from this first round, known as either the "American League Division Series" (ALDS) or the "National League Division Series" (NLDS), depending on what league the teams are from, move on to the next round. This next round is known as the American (or National) League Championship Series (ALCS and NLCS, respectively). These Championship series' are both a best-of-7 series, where the first team to win 4 games in the series moves on.

Finally, the ALCS and the NLCS winners move on to one final round of play, this is also a best-of-7 series, and is known as the World Series. The winner of the World Series every year is declared the Major League Baseball Champion for that season.


Different Rules

The two leagues play with basically the same rules, with one notable exception. In the National League, the pitcher must, when his turn in the lineup comes up, must either bat, or be replaced. In the American League, teams may (and almost always do), designate a different player to bat in the pitcher's spot. This player is known as the "Designated Hitter" or DH. This player is not allowed to play any positions in the field, and if he is moved or taken from the game, must be replaced in the line-up by the pitcher. In the case of inter-league games, weather in the pre-season, the regular season, or the World Series, the two teams play by the rules of whichever team is the home team.

All-Star Game

In July of every year every team has a three day break in their schedule, this is called the "All-Star Break". In the middle of this break, there is a special exhibition game called the All-Star game. This game features at least one player from every team in the Major Leagues. They are split up into two teams, one team featuring players from the American League, and the other team having players from the National League. The starting position players (as in, the non-pitchers) are voted on by the fans. The player receiving the most votes from the fans at each position starts in the game, though they will usually only play a few innings. The rest of the team is chosen by, in large part, the manager of their respective teams. The players and the Commissioner's office also have some say in the rest of the roster for this game. The managers from the two teams that were in the World Series the year prior are chosen to lead the All-Star teams.

The All-Star game has been played since 1933, and for most of that time it was a meaningless exhibition game, having no bearing on any other part of the season. This changed in 2003, when after the 2002 game was called a tie, due to a lack of pitchers on both teams, it was decreed by the Commissioner, Bud Selig, that the winning league in the All-Star game would have home-field advantage (having 4 of the 7 games in their own stadium) in the World Series.

The Minors

Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in North America. Below it are the minor leagues, ranked AAA, AA and A. The Minors include such leagues as the International League and the Southern League, which typically have teams in smaller cities and towns throughout the U.S. and Canada. Major League teams use the Minors as development leagues for younger players. They also provide an opportunity for older players trying to work their way back into the Majors as well as employment for players who were never able to make it to "The Show," as the big leagues are sometimes called.[6]

Leagues

Throughout the years, both leagues have seen a number of teams come and go. When the National League was formed, it had eight teams, only four of which are still in existence and in the same city that they started in. The American League was formed, it also had eight teams, seven of which are still where they started.[7]

List of teams in Major League Baseball

Defunct franchises

Trivia

The National League

References

  1. http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/
  2. Chipello, Christopher J.. Expos' move marks end of baseball era in French, Wall Street Journal, Post-Gazette NOW Sports, 2005-06-03. Retrieved on 2008-02-08.
  3. Washington Nationals and Montreal Expos. Retrieved on 2-10-08.
  4. Pappas, Doug. A contentious history: Baselball's labor fights, 9-8-2002. Retrieved on 2-10-08.
  5. Morrissey, Mo. Baseball labor relations: Anti-trust exemptions & the reserve clause, 10-19-2007. Retrieved on 2-10-08.
  6. Zenz, Jay. Is Bisenius Ready For The Show?, PhillyBaseballNews.com, 2007-3-3. Retrieved on 2008-02-07.
  7. http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/