Major League Baseball: Learning the Basics
Major League Baseball: Learning the Basics
It is fair to say that baseball is not the most popular sport in Ghana. Although we love all kinds of sports – and excel in many of them – Major League Baseball is not one that we have cracked quite yet. But with Akil Baddoo becoming the first player of Ghanaian heritage to play in the big league, we thought we would take a look at “America’s pastime”.
It is actually now the most exciting part of the season, as the regular season is over and a select few teams are now competing in the playoffs. The winners of the World Series, scheduled to be played at the end of October and beginning of November, will essentially be crowned the world champions.
In honor of Akil Baddoo’s achievements so far, we are going to go through the basics of the game. You may want to learn how to bet on the World Series. But, for now, here is what you need to know about one of the most favorite sports in the US.
Teams and League
Although baseball is played all around the world, including here in Ghana on a much smaller level, it is Major League Baseball that is regarded as the best league in the world. Thirty teams compete in this league – with no promotion or relegation. There are 29 from the US and one from Canada.
MLB is actually made up of two leagues – American and National – and they are then split into three divisions each. The divisions are split into regions, although a city could have a team in both the American and National leagues – such as the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.
Format of Season
Every team in Major League Baseball plays a 162-game season. The rosters for the teams are obviously very large, as teams will typically play around five days in a week from the end of March through September. The format of the regular season changes from time to time to update who plays who.
At the current time, each team will play its four divisional opponents 19 times, usually in a three-game series. It will also play the other 10 teams in its league (American or National) around six or seven times. To make up the 162-game season, it will also play a number of games against the teams from one division in the other league. All teams also play a local rival from the other league a few more times.
The regular season ends at the beginning of October and 12 teams enter the postseason playoffs. These are the six division champions and six wild card teams. The best two division champs get a bye, while the remaining eight teams play in a best-of-three wild card series.
The final eight teams – four from each division – then play a five-game series called the American League Divisional Series and the National League Divisional Series. The winners of those then go head-to-head in the respective championship series to decide who will play in the best-of-seven World Series. The best of the American League faces the best in the National League.
Players and Positions
There are many complex rules to baseball but at its most basic, it is a sport between two teams of nine players. One team bats while the other fields. A pitcher will throw a player at each batting team player in turn; with the aim being to be able to hit the ball well enough that they can run around the four bases.
The main aim of the fielding team is to stop the batter from being able to run to the bases. If a player strikes out three times, they are out. Three outs signal the end of an inning. Each MLB game is made up of nine innings – in that each team has nine chances to score runs. There is the potential for extra innings if a game is tied.
The most famous players are usually the pitchers or the big hitters. But all of the positions on the field are crucial and play their part in a team’s success – or failure.
There are some very famous teams that are known all around the world. This might be because of their success in winning the World Series. But the sales of baseball merchandise are so successful that it is very likely that you or one of your friends probably own some kind of hat or apparel with the New York Yankees logo on it.
The Yankees are actually the most successful team in the history of Major League Baseball, having won the World Series 27 times – the last being in 2009. Just six teams have never won a World Series in their history and the league is very cyclical when it comes to champions.
Some teams have enjoyed repeated success down through the years but baseball has crowned a different champion every year for the last 22 years. The Houston Astros won the World Series last year and have made the playoffs this year – so that record may end in 2023.
The relatively small number of teams making it to the playoffs each year ensures that there is usually a turnover of champions. Other recent winners include the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals.
Baddoo was born in Silver Spring, Maryland. His father’s family is originally from Ghana, while his mother’s is from Trinidad and Tobago. Only 25, he was drafted out of school by the Minnesota Twins but only played for their minor league (essentially reserve) teams.
He then joined the Detroit Tigers and has played in Major League Baseball for them. He has had to contend with injuries though, and has spent some time with the minor league teams there as well. Hopefully, he will be playing for the big team again next season and maybe you can put your newly found baseball knowledge to good use, cheering him on in the World Series in 2024!