The ins and outs of Major League Baseball

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In this week’s edition of Curveballs and Sliders, Joe Gray peers into the world of Major League Baseball.

Major League Baseball is considered the highest-quality baseball league in the world. It comprises 29 teams from US cities, and one from Toronto, Canada. Many of the leading players from other leagues around the world aspire to make it in the Majors, or Big Leagues.

The 30 teams are split into the American League and the National League – each made up of three regional divisions – playing essentially by the same rules with the exception that the pitcher hits for himself in the latter but has a designated hitter to take his at-bats for him in the former.

Each team has a roster of 25 players but is propped up by a tiered farm system of affiliated Minor League clubs, where the stars of the future learn the trade and progress up through the levels.

When the Minor League season ends in early September, the Major League rosters expand to 40 players, accommodating some of these players.

In the regular season, teams play out a 162-game schedule and the three division winners and a wildcard team - the second-placed team with the best record - from each league advance to the postseason.

Here, teams battle it out in knock-out series to first establish the winner of the American League and the winner of the National League.

These two teams then compete in the best-of-seven World Series to determine the overall champions for the year.

The most successful franchises historically are the New York Yankees (27 World Series wins), the St Louis Cardinals (11 wins), and the Oakland Athletics (9 wins).

Among existing franchises, only the Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners have never appeared in a World Series.

> Joe Gray is the founder and co-ordinator of Project COBB, the home of the chronicling of British Baseball. To visit the website click here

Next week, “Curveballs and sliders” will look at how to follow Major League Baseball from Britain.