Portal:Baseball

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Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The goal is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot square, or diamond. Players on one team (the batting team) take turns hitting against the pitcher of the other team (the fielding team), which tries to stop them from scoring runs by getting hitters out in any of several ways. A player on the batting team can stop at any of the bases and later advance via a teammate's hit or other means. The teams switch between batting and fielding whenever the fielding team records three outs. One turn at bat - 3 outs - for each team constitutes an inning; nine innings make up a professional game. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins.

Evolving from older bat-and-ball games, an early form of baseball was being played in England by the mid-eighteenth century. This game and the related rounders were brought by British and Irish immigrants to North America, where the modern version of baseball developed. By the late nineteenth century, baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of the United States. Baseball on the professional, amateur, and youth levels is now popular in North America, parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean, and parts of East Asia. The game is sometimes referred to as hardball, in contrast to the derivative game of softball.

In North America, professional Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are divided into the National League (NL) and American League (AL). Each league has three divisions: East, West, and Central. Every year, the champion of Major League Baseball is determined by playoffs that culminate in the World Series. Five teams make the playoffs from each league: the three regular season division winners, plus two wild card teams. Baseball is the leading team sport in both Japan and Cuba, and the top level of play is similarly split between two leagues: Japan's Central League and Pacific League; Cuba's West League and East League. In the National and Central leagues, the pitcher is required to bat, per the traditional rules. In the American, Pacific, and both Cuban leagues, there is a tenth player, a designated hitter, who bats for the pitcher. Each top-level team has a farm system of one or more minor league teams. These teams allow younger players to develop as they gain on-field experience against opponents with similar levels of skill. (more...)

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Ichiro Suzuki was the first high-profile NPB player (and second overall) to use the posting system.
The posting system (ポスティングシステム posutingu shisutemu?) is a baseball player transfer system which operates between Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the United States' Major League Baseball (MLB). Despite the drafting of the United States – Japanese Player Contract Agreement in 1967 designed to regulate NPB players moving to MLB, problems arose in the late 1990s. Some NPB teams lost star players without compensation, an issue highlighted when NPB stars Hideo Nomo and Alfonso Soriano left to play in MLB after using loopholes to void their existing contracts. A further problem was that NPB players had very little negotiating power if their teams decided to deal them to MLB, as when pitcher Hideki Irabu was traded to an MLB team for which he had no desire to play. In 1998, the Agreement was rewritten to address both problems and was dubbed the "posting system". Under this system, when an NPB player is "posted", MLB holds a four-day-long silent auction during which MLB teams can submit sealed bids in an attempt to win the exclusive rights to negotiate with the player for a period of 30 days. If the MLB team with the winning bid and the NPB player agree on contract terms before the 30-day period has expired, the NPB team receives the bid amount as a transfer fee, and the player is free to play in MLB. If the MLB team cannot come to a contract agreement with the posted player, then no fee is paid, and the player's rights revert to his NPB team. Up to the end of the 2008/09 posting period, thirteen Japanese players had been posted using the system. Of these, seven signed Major League contracts immediately, three signed minor league contracts, and three were unsuccessful in attracting any MLB interest. The two highest-profile players that have been acquired by MLB teams through the posting system are Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka. They attracted high bids of $13.125 million and $51.1 million respectively, and have enjoyed successful MLB careers. However, since its implementation the posting system has been criticized by the media and baseball insiders from both countries.

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Lee Smith.jpg
Lee Arthur Smith (born December 4, 1957) is a retired American right-handed relief pitcher who played for eight teams in Major League Baseball from 1980 to 1997. A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, Smith was scouted by Buck O'Neil and drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1975 Major League Baseball Draft. In his 18-year major league career, Smith's longest tenure with any one team was with the Cubs, with whom he spent his first eight seasons. One of the dominant closers in history, Smith held the major league record for career saves from 1993 until 2006, when San Diego Padres relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman passed his final total of 478 on September 24. Smith was known as an intimidating figure on the pitcher's mound at 6 feet, 6 inches (1.98 m) and 265 pounds (120 kg) with a 95 mile per hour (150 km/h) fastball.

In 1991, Smith set a National League record with 47 saves for the St. Louis Cardinals, and was runner-up for the league's Cy Young Award; it was the second of three times he led the NL in saves, and he later led the American League once while with the Baltimore Orioles in 1994. He also set the major league career record for games finished (802), and his 1,022 career games pitched were the third most in history when he retired; he still holds the team records for career saves for the Cubs (180), and he also held the Cardinals record (160) until 2006. Smith has been a candidate for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame five times since 2003, but has generally received 37-45% of the necessary votes on all total ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, with 75% needed for election. After the end of his major league career, Smith spent time working as a pitching instructor at the minor-league level with the San Francisco Giants. He then served as the pitching coach for the South Africa national baseball team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and afterwards continued his previous job as a minor-league roving pitching instructor for the Giants.

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It's a great day for a ball game; let's play two!


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A sign in the outfield of Bonds' home park depicting his chase of Babe Ruth's 714 home runs.
Milestone home runs by Barry Bonds have been those important home runs hit by Barry Bonds, who ranks among the greatest baseball players of all time and has for much of his career been considered a five-tool player. Bonds' ascension towards the top of experts' lists of greatest players was propelled by highly productive years in which he set many records. By 1998, he was considered among the 50 greatest players of all time by The Sporting News, and after winning the National League's Most Valuable Player Award four consecutive times from 2001 to 2004, he jumped into the top 10 in the 2005 list. He now holds numerous Major League Baseball records for home runs, bases on balls, intentional bases on balls, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, as well as a record seven MVP awards. In baseball, the home run is one of the most popular aspects of the game. Thus, the career record for home runs is among the most important and respected records in baseball. The road to this record has been closely followed and each additional home run Bonds hits extends the current record further. On August 7, 2007, Barry Bonds became the major leagues' career home run champion by hitting his 756th career home run, which surpassed Hank Aaron's total. Quite often milestone home runs such as round hundred and career records are considered breaking news, and sports news services give coverage to countdowns on impending milestone home runs. Several of Bonds' milestone home runs were given dedicated coverage on ESPN BottomLine, with Chasing Ruth and Chasing Aaron coverage being quite extensive for the few seasons preceding the breaking of the record. Sports collectible dealers and buyers pay exorbitant sums for paraphernalia associated with such milestones. The Baseball Hall of Fame covets such paraphernalia for display. In fact, players are even sensitive to the way in which their paraphernalia is displayed. A baseball that was hit for a milestone causes such a mêlée and such hysteria that special balls have to be used to stop counterfeiting, and police escorts are necessary for those who catch such balls.

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