A Beginner's Guide for New MLB Fans

A Beginner’s Guide for New MLB Fans

Baseball can seem confusing to people when they start to watch it, and if you’ve never checked out an MLB game before, you might be very perplexed by what is happening. The basic principles are simple enough to pick up, but things like the scoring system can confuse many people; plus, there is a huge league history of over 100 years.

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the basics of MLB, including how it works, the format, and even some of the rules of baseball (just the basics; we won’t turn this into a full rulebook).

The Formation of MLB

MLB stands for Major League Baseball. The league was formed as early as 1876, though it was formed as two separate organizations, the National League (NL) and the American League (AL). The two merged in 2000; ever since then, they have operated together under the MLB banner. A lot has changed in the landscape of sports and gaming since 2000, and more and more fans have come to watch the sport in the digital age.

The rise of MLB has been made much simpler with the advent of the Internet and the fact that people can access games and streaming services anywhere. Streaming services have become such a success story that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a platform that doesn’t offer some service, from traditional sports channels to various betting apps.

A former senior ESPN executive has recently stated that “Sports has never been more valuable.” Discussing how channels and platforms are competing harder than ever for broadcasting rights. It’s no wonder that sports betting has seen its synergistic rise, with the number of available sportsbooks ballooning over the last few years, making the market difficult to navigate. Like the frantic rush trying to find the right channel for a game, finding a reliable sportsbook can be tricky at times. This is most likely why WSN has seen such growth in traffic since 2020, offering expert-rated reviews for sportsbooks such as Fanduel, which can be found here: https://www.wsn.com/sportsbooks/fanduel/.

How the League Structure Works

30 MLB teams play in two leagues, the American and National leagues. The two leagues are both divided into divisions based on location. America’s huge geographical reach means it is tough for the teams to travel across the country, especially with so many fixtures happening. So, there are East, Central, and West leagues for each. Divisions have five teams in each. Historically, some of the teams have even moved to play in different divisions and regions.

The regular season is played over 162 games per team (much more than most other sports), and things typically start in late March or early April, ending in October. Teams do play against those from other divisions, but more frequently, they play against the local teams. The team’s record over the regular season is crucial as they may then reach the postseason. This is where there are playoffs. The playoffs are played to determine overall champions for the leagues.

Also, there is no promotion and relegation system like in other sports, such as English Football.

The Playoffs

The playoffs are where the excitement happens for many fans. Five teams from the AL and five from the NL make up the playoffs, and the teams with the most wins are invited to play in these playoffs. There are also opportunities for the next two best teams to be involved. These are called “wild cards,” and the first games in the playoff format see the wild card teams play against each other—the winner can then join the playoffs.

In the Division Series part of the playoffs, the teams play a best-of-five round, and a team needs to beat the competitors three times to move into the next round, which is called the Championship Series (there are a lot of parts to these playoffs!).

The Championship Series is again split into the AL Championship Series and the NL Championship Series. Instead of playing five times, they now play a best-out-of-seven series. Teams are whittled down to just two in this phase of the playoffs. These two play the World Series, seven games to dictate who will be the champion.

MLB is a huge franchise, of course, and you may also find that there are games played abroad and all-star games in the US as more of a commercial, exhibition style. Viewership of the World Series can reach tens of millions of people in the US alone.

Baseball’s Growing Popularity

Some statistics about baseball’s popularity are very interesting when considering where it is followed.

Some people think that baseball’s popularity is in decline, and there are some places within the US where this is possibly true, but it could just be that the way people interact with baseball is changing.

In 2023, MLB had over six billion views on social media and 50% more engagement. Followers also increased. Surveys showed that the sport is growing globally. For example, as many as 66% of people surveyed in Japan said they follow the sport, and there are also fairly high levels of followers in India, China, and places closer to home, such as Mexico.

Where to Watch MLB

If you want to watch MLB in person, there are stadiums dotted around the big cities of the US (and Canada).

The American League teams are listed below. As you can see, there are plenty of locations where you can take in a game. The Yankees could be a great option if you’re on a trip to New York. Recently, the Texas Rangers won the World Series for the first time. Teams are spread far South and even over the border in the north into Canada.

  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Boston Red Sox
  • New York Yankees
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Cleveland Guardians
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Minnesota Twins
  • Houston Astros
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Oakland Athletics
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Texas Rangers

If you plan to watch on television, the MLB keeps a lot of this in-house with MLB TV, its streaming operation. However, this varies depending on where you are in the world. Some countries also have their own streaming rights and television rights. I have found the MLB’s coverage to be basically unrivaled. They have many experts covering the games and a wide range of choices.

Extra Innings

Baseball is far from the most popular sport in the world, but it does have global appeal and a growing number of people watching. You only have to see the games that have been played on tour to understand that. As the sport widens its global appeal, games have been played in the UK, Japan, and even Australia.

If you’re a new MLB fan, my advice is to grasp the rules and then just enjoy the sport, preferably in person, where you can learn more about what it entails and have some amazing experiences.