Major League Baseball (MLB) is the highest level of play in professional baseball in North America. More specifically, Major League Baseball ("MLB") refers to the entity that operates North America's two top leagues, the National League and the American League, by means of a joint organizational structure which has existed between them since 1920.
Major League Baseball is governed by the Major League Constitution, an agreement that has undergone several incarnations since 1920, with the most recent revisions being made in 2001. Major League Baseball, under the direction of its Commissioner, hires and maintains the sport's umpiring crews, and negotiates marketing, labor, and television contracts. The 'closed shop' aspect of MLB effectively prevents the yearly promotion and demotion of teams into the Major League by virute of their performance (as, for example, in the English football league system, where the bottom three teams in the highest league are demoted to a lower league, and the top three from the second highest league move into the top league).
MLB also maintains a unique, controlling relationship over the sport, including most aspects of minor league baseball. This is due in large part to a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which declared baseball is not considered interstate commerce (and therefore not subject to federal antitrust law), despite baseball's own references to itself as an "industry" rather than a "sport."
Current Major Leagues
The Major League season generally runs from early April through the end of September. Players and teams prepare for the season in spring training, primarily in Florida and Arizona, during February and March.
Teams and schedule
In all there are 30 teams in the two leagues: 16 in the elder National League ("NL") and 14 in the American League ("AL"). Each has its teams split into three divisions grouped generally by geography and styled "East," "Central," and "West," respectively.
Each team's regular season consists of 162 games, a duration established in 1961. From 1898 to 1960, a 154-game schedule was played. Games are played predominantly against teams within each league through an unbalanced schedule which heavily favors divisional play. In 1997 Major League Baseball introduced interleague play, which was criticized by the sport's purists but has since maintained popularity with casual fans.
Early July marks the midway point of the season, during which a three day break is taken when the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is staged. The All-Star game pits players from the NL, headed up by the manager of the previous NL World Series team, against players from the AL, similarly managed, in an exhibition game. After the 2002 contest ended in a 11-innning tie because both teams were out of players, a result which proved highly unpopular with the fans, it was decided to give the game more impact on the regular season. In 2003 and 2004, the league which won the game received the benefit of home-field advantage (four of the seven games of that year's World Series taking place at their home park). It has yet to be announced if this experiment will continue past 2004. Since the 1970s, the eight position players for each team who take the field initially have been voted into the game by fans. The remaining position players, and all of the pitchers, on each league's roster are solely at the discretion of that team's manager. By MLB regulation, every team in the majors must have at least one designated all-star player, regardless of voting. This rule exists so that fans of every team have a player to watch for in the All Star Game.
At the conclusion of the regular season, the three division champions from each league, together with the non-division champion with the best regular season record ("Wild Card") qualify for post-season playoffs. The post-season currently consists of three rounds:
At the time of writing the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig, has often floated the idea of international expansion and realignment of the major leagues. At the moment, however, the major leagues are each split into three divisions, and structured as follows:
Current teams of Major League Baseball
† In 2002, Major League Baseball, through a subsidiary (Baseball Expos, L.P.), acquired the National League's Montreal Expos franchise with the intent of ceasing its operations. However, a new collective bargaining agreement with the powerful baseball players union in effect stopped that maneuver. The team has been relocated for 2005 to Washington D.C. and renamed the Washington Nationals. MLB continues its search for someone to acquire the franchise.
¤ On January 3rd, 2005, the Anaheim Angels baseball organization announced that it would change the team's name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The move is very controversial and is being countered by the city of Anaheim, California which owns Angel Stadium, and seeks to reverse the name-change based on its lease agreement with the organization. The contract, signed by previous ownership, requires the team name to contain the name of the city in it.
Historical Major Leagues
In 1969, the centennial of professional baseball, a commission chartered by Major League Baseball identified the following leagues as "major leagues". The list is sometimes disputed by baseball researchers. The MLB list included the following:
Some researchers contend that the National Association (1871-1875), the Negro Leagues (primarily during the years from 1921-1946), and the first year of the American League (1900) deserve consideration as major leagues due to the caliber of player and the level of play exhibited. However, game and statistical records for these particular leagues were not kept in a consistent manner.
Players, ownership, ballparks and officials
Statistics, milestones and records
Exhibition and playoffs
- List of regular season MLB games played at alternate parks