The oldest significant professional sports league in the world is Major League Baseball (MLB), a baseball organisation.
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The Baseball National League (NL) and the American League (AL) each have a total of 30 teams, 29 of which are located in the United States and 1 in Canada. In 1876 and 1901, respectively, the NL and AL were established. The National Agreement was signed by the two leagues in 1903, and they collaborated but were still considered separate organisations under law until 2000, when they combined to form the Baseball Commissioner’s Organization. In Midtown Manhattan, there is an MLB headquarters. One of the top professional sports leagues in the US and Canada is also mentioned.
In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first all-professional team, was established. Previously, a few teams had compensated specific players in secret. Rivalries between leagues and players who frequently switched teams or leagues throughout the first few decades of professional baseball were characteristics of the era. Prior to 1920, home runs were infrequently hit, known as the “dead-ball era.” The 1919 World Series fixation scheme known as the Black Sox Scandal did not destroy professional baseball in the United States. In the 1920s, the popularity of the sport increased, and it continued to grow despite possible setbacks during the Great Depression and World War II. Jackie Robinson eliminated the colour barrier in baseball not long after the war.
For the AL and NL, the 1950s and 1960s saw club growth and relocation. In the 1970s and 1980s, artificial turf fields in modern stadiums started to alter the nature of the sport. In the 1990s, home runs dominated the game, and in the middle of the 2000s, anabolic steroid use by MLB players was made public by media reports. The Mitchell Report, which was the result of an inquiry in 2006, accused numerous players in the usage of performance-enhancing drugs, including at least one player from each squad.
Every team plays 162 games in a season, and six teams from each league progress to the World Series, a best-of-seven championship match between the two league champions that has been played since 1903. In North America and several other nations, baseball games are broadcast on television, radio, and the internet. With more than 69.6 million fans, MLB has the greatest overall season attendance of any sports league in the world in 2018.
Minor League Baseball, which consists of lower-level teams connected to major league clubs, is likewise governed by MLB. The World Baseball Classic is co-managed by MLB and the World Baseball Softball Confederation.
After the National Football League, MLB is the second-richest professional sports league in terms of income (NFL). The New York Yankees, with 27 titles, have won the most since the first World Series in 1903. The Houston Astros are the current World Series winners after winning the 2022 World Series, which concluded the 2022 season, 4-2 over the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Major League Baseball Constitution is the legal framework for MLB. Since it was first created in 1876, this document has gone through various iterations. The MLB employs and manages the umpiring staffs for the sport and bargains labour, marketing, and television contracts under the guidance of the commissioner of baseball. The majority of Minor League Baseball’s operations are controlled by MLB, which has a special connection with the sport. This is largely attributable to the Federal Baseball Club v. National League decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922, which ruled that baseball is not interstate commerce and is therefore exempt from federal antitrust law. MLB is the only league with this status, and there has been no competition since this decision.
In the years since, this decision has only been marginally softened. The decision was softened, which gave team owners more security and led to double-digit value growth. There have been numerous attempts to overthrow MLB’s dominance in the sport. Notable examples include the late 1800s, the short-lived Federal League in 1913–1915, and the ill-fated Continental League in 1960.
The commissioner, who is presently Rob Manfred, serves as MLB’s chief executive. Dan Halem presently serves as both the chief legal officer and the deputy commissioner of baseball administration. There are seven additional executives: the chief operations and strategy officer, the chief financial officer and senior advisor, the chief communications officer, the chief revenue officer, the chief baseball development officer, and the executive vice president and general counsel.
MLB Advanced Media, which has its headquarters in New York City, is MLB’s multimedia division. This division is in charge of the websites for all 30 teams as well as MLB.com. According to its charter, MLB Advanced Media maintains editorial independence from the league while being owned by the same company and participating in the same revenue-sharing programme. A similarly organised division of the league, MLB Productions, concentrates on traditional broadcast media and video. Additionally, 67 percent of MLB Network is owned by MLB, with the remaining 33 percent being divided among multiple cable providers and satellite provider DirecTV. It enjoys editorial independence from the league and runs out of studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.
A considerably more powerful Commissioner of Baseball, who had the authority to make decisions for all of professional baseball unilaterally, took the place of the ineffective National Commission, which had been established in 1920 to oversee ties between the two leagues. The American and National Leagues each had eight teams from 1901 through 1960.
Eight new teams were added to MLB in the 1960s, including the league’s first international team (the Montreal Expos). The 1970s also saw the addition of two teams, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners. Each league featured an East and West Division from 1969 through 1993. To balance the number of teams in each leagues, the National League added two teams in 1993—the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies. In 1994, the Central Tier was added as the third division in each league. The two leagues only played each other on the field at the World Series and the All-Star Game prior to 1996. Interleague competition during the regular season started in 1997.
This and other factors led to the decision that one existing club would have to switch leagues in order for both leagues to maintain an equitable number of clubs. In November 1997, the Milwaukee Brewers decided to transfer from the American League to the National League, making the NL a 16-team league. At the same time, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays joined the AL East, and the Detroit Tigers agreed to switch from the AL East to the AL Central (replacing Milwaukee).
The National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and National Hockey League (NHL) are all examples of professional sports leagues. In 2000, the AL and NL were abolished as legal organisations, and MLB became a single, overall league de jure. With one past exception: the AL operated under the designated hitter (DH) rule, whereas the NL did not. Both leagues employ the identical rules and regulations. The other major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada share a single set of rules for all teams, making MLB the only league with different rules from other leagues.
The designated hitter (DH) rule was implemented by the National League (NL) for the first time in 2020. This adjustment was made permanent as part of the 2021–22 Major League Baseball lockout settlement, making the regulations in the two leagues identical.
Minor League Baseball:
A hierarchy of professional baseball leagues known as Minor League Baseball compete below Major League Baseball (MLB) and offer options for player development and a path to the top divisions. The minor leagues are all run as separate companies. The majority are participants in Minor League Baseball (MiLB), a governing body for organised baseball that is governed by the Commissioner of Baseball.
Teams in the structured lower leagues, with the exception of the Mexican League, are often privately owned and run, although they have a standard Player Development Contract that binds them to one team in the major league (PDC). Because of a practical joke told by major league players in the 1930s, when St. Louis Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey formalised the system and teams in small towns were “growing players down on the farm like corn,” these leagues are also known as the “farm system,” “farm club,” or “farm team”.
The Minor League Baseball organisational structure is divided into the AAA, AA, High-A, A, Short-Season A, Rookie-Advanced, and Rookie classifications as of 2018. At least six of these seven levels are represented by most major league teams.
Teams from both the Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball can sign a PDC for a two- or four-year period. Teams may choose to continue their affiliation or sign new PDCs with alternative clubs when a PDC term comes to an end, however many ties are renewed and last for lengthy periods of time. For instance, the Columbus Clippers changed affiliations from the New York Yankees in 1979 to the Washington Nationals in 2007, and have been affiliated with the Cleveland Guardians since 2009. The Omaha Storm Chasers (formerly the Omaha Royals) have been the AAA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals since the Royals joined the American League in 1969.
Some minor league teams, including the Springfield Cardinals, owned by the St. Louis Cardinals, and all of the Atlanta Braves’ affiliates, with the exception of the Carolina Mudcats, are directly owned by their big league parent team. Directly owned minor league teams by major league clubs do not have PDCs with one another and are not included in the reaffiliation changes that take place every other year.
The Arizona Fall League is a unique minor league. Teams typically designate prospects from the AAA and AA classes to the league’s six teams; it is independent of Minor League Baseball’s organisational structure. Currently, 246 member clubs in 19 affiliated minor baseball leagues play in big, medium, and small communities as well as in the outskirts of big cities throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.
There are independent baseball leagues as well, with their teams typically playing in suburban areas without their own minor league teams. The Atlantic League, which operates mostly in the Northeast megalopolis, strives to be comparable in level of play to the upper level minor leagues. Most such leagues operate with a level of talent comparable to the middle and lower ends of the minor league system.
At higher education institutions, intercollegiate college baseball is played. Baseball has more professional minor leagues than football or basketball, therefore collegiate competition in the US has less of an impact on producing professional players. Baseball has a higher rate of players making the transition from high school to the professional level than football or basketball do. Players who enrol in a four-year college must finish three years in order to regain eligibility, unless they turn 21 before beginning their third year of study. Players who enrol in junior colleges (two-year institutions), such as Bryce Harper, are allowed to regain eligibility after one year. The United States has 298 NCAA Division I teams as of 2013.
Competitive college baseball is played under the rules of the NCAA or the NAIA, just like the majority of other intercollegiate sports in the United States. The NCAA establishes the regulations of the game, and each sanctioning organisation oversees the season-ending competitions. One of the College World Series is held at each of the three levels of competition recognised by the NCAA. These are the championship rounds of the NCAA tournaments. After the regular season, in June, the Division I College World Series is held in Omaha, Nebraska. 64 teams compete in the Division I playoff bracket, with four teams travelling to each of the 16 regional venues (in a double-elimination format). Eight cities will host the Super Regionals, which will be played head-to-head in a best-of-three series, with the 16 winners moving on. The top eight finishers move on to the College World Series, a double-elimination competition (actually two distinct four-team brackets) to decide the top two finishers nationwide. The Division I national champion is decided via a best-of-three series between the finalist teams.
After each college season concludes, players who want to pursue a professional baseball career generally continue their careers through collegiate summer baseball. There are numerous collegiate summer baseball leagues, all of which are independent of one another and from any other baseball organisations. The talent levels of these leagues range greatly, from the elite Cape Cod League to ones that primarily include players from local universities. In contrast to college baseball, which employs metal bats, all collegiate summer baseball leagues use wooden baseball bats similar to those used in the professional game.