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MLB to test rule changes in minors: A look at the good and the bad



MLB to test rule changes in minors: A look at the good and the bad

MLB on Thursday dropped a list of rule modifications that it will test in the minor leagues this season. The ones that fans know (and hate) the most are banning the shift (in Double-A), robot umpires (in Low-A Southeast, aka the old Florida State League) and pitch clocks (in all of Low Single-A).

But baseball will also test modifications to the running game to see whether stolen bases can increase and more “action” can be injected into the sport. These changes are more important than speed-up rules or lasers calling balls and strikes. 

The entire list:

Naturally, the “Fire Rob Manfred” replies on Twitter were immediate as fans strained their online vocal cords to rage at . . . things. But few of them went any deeper than that.

MORE: Team-by-team attendance rules to start season

And while this reaction won’t get far below the surface, either, it will be more than “I hate everything.” A level-by-level breakdown of the changes and whether they’re good or bad:

Triple-A changes: Good

The size of first, second and third base is expanding from 15 square inches to 18 square inches. The idea is to increase safety by reducing collisions. Baseball is also hoping that larger bases will result in more stolen bases and more runners beating out plays. In a game of inches, altering the dimensions of the bases will be consequential, but it won’t drastically alter the game as much as other changes in this list (see below) will.  

Double-A changes: Bad

Bad isn’t a strong enough word; awful is a more apt description. Double-A is the “ban the shift” league (potentially) this year. At first, teams will be required to have four players stand on the dirt portion of the infield at all times — no more “rovers” in right field. If the results of that experiment go a certain way (i.e., if not enough additional hits go through the infield), then teams may be required in the second half of the season to keep two infielders on each side of second base at all times.

The two-a-side idea is too extreme. It unduly penalizes teams that do good (or, nowadays, routine) scouting. There’s a reason MLB teams produce spray charts; they want to optimize defensive positioning and enhance run prevention. Prohibiting that exercise would return infield play to what it was just 10 years ago (yay for nostalgia), but why come down that hard on teams that play smart percentage baseball and bottle up batters who aren’t asked — or who don’t want to — shorten up and hit the ball the other way?

One other thing that wasn’t addressed in MLB’s release: Forcing teams to have four players on the dirt would eliminate four-man outfields. Teams today are willing to trade singles to the vacant left side for better coverage in the gaps and lines against left-handed sluggers.

Bottom line: MLB shouldn’t take away any of these options in pursuit of “the very best version of baseball,” as new MLB executive Theo Epstein put it. The very best version of baseball is the one where teams organically adjust their strategies to gain edges. Baseball’s rules need to allow those adjustments to take place with minimal limits. 

Single-A changes: Good and bad

This is where the running game experiments will take place. Pitchers at High-A will need to step off the rubber before they can attempt a pickoff throw to any base, including first. Pitchers in low-A leagues will be limited to two step-offs or pickoff throws per plate appearance. If they make a third step-off or pickoff attempt, then they’ll need to pick off the runner right there, or else a balk will be called if the runner gets back safely. The limit might shrink to one step-off/pickoff attempt based on early results (i.e., not enough steals).

It’s not clear whether a pitcher will be charged with a step-off if he breaks contact with the rubber when he and the catcher can’t get together on signs. Can a pitcher make it look like a signs problem so he can get an extra step-off or two?  

One effect of the step-off mandate will be the end of “balk” moves. Many right-handers have learned how to bend their back leg while still on the rubber before spinning and firing to first base, a move that’s considered a balk because it deceives the runner. Left-handers, of course, are famous for not stepping directly toward first base but also not far enough toward home to trigger a balk call. Eliminating this gray area is fairer to the runner, so that’s a plus.

But will these changes (and the larger bases in Triple-A) encourage MLB teams to steal more often in the future? How much does the stolen-base success rate need to go up in the minors to convince MLB analytics departments? From 70 percent to 85 percent, say?

As for the other Single-A experiments . . .

Robot umps (official name: Automatic Ball-Strike System) will be used in Low-A Southeast, aka the former Florida State League. This move is just the next step toward implementation in the majors; consider it a season to work out bugs. Have fun arguing balls and strikes with the eye in the sky when a pitch barely nicks a corner, fellas.

Pitch and break clocks are coming to Low-A West, aka the former California League. Double-A and Triple-A leagues already have clocks, but MLB says the Low-A system will be more expansive. Expect some players to complain about feeling rushed, but this change is the most benign of the bunch.

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Preakness live race updates, results, highlights from 2021 Triple Crown race



Preakness live race updates, results, highlights from 2021 Triple Crown race

Two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, the second leg of the Triple Crown Race is here.

The 2021 Preakness Stakes has even more intrigue this year because of the controversy surrounding Medina Spirit, winner of the Derby. A test result from after the race found the horse to have 21 picograms of betamethasone, 11 more than the legal race limit. Trainer Bob Baffert insists that the positive test wasn’t a result of drugging, calling Churchill Downs’ decision to invalidate the horse’s win — pending a second positive test — “an injustice.”

Adding to the controversy: Mandaloun, the runner-up from the Derby, will be retroactively deemed the winner at Churchill Downs should a second test confirm the first. But Mandaloun will not run at the Pimlico Race Course. So we could have a scenario in which Medina Spirit wins the race without being in the official running for the Triple Crown.

All the more reason to watch Saturday’s spectacle. Follow along as Sporting News provides live updates during the 2021 Preakness Stakes.

MORE: Payout breakdown for 2021 Preakness Stakes

Preakness Stakes finish order

This section will be updated with final race results.

Post position Horse Win Place Show
1 Medina Spirit      
2 Mandaloun      
3 Hot Rod Charlie      
4 Essential Quality      
5 O Besos      
6 Midnight Bourbon      
7 Keepmeinmind      
8 Helium      
9 Known Agenda      
10 Highly Motivated      

Watch the 2021 Preakness Stakes

This section will be updated.

Preakness Stakes live updates, highlights, results

All times Eastern

2:49 p.m.: For those curious to see how Medina Spirit will perform in today’s race:

2:23 p.m.: And winner of Race No. 7 at the Preakness: Mischief Afoot.

2:16 p.m.:Your winner for the 2021 Gallorette Stakes: Mean Mary!

2021 Preakness Stakes post time

Coverage of the 2021 Preakness Stakes will begin at 2 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network. NBC will take over coverage at 5 p.m. ahead of the race’s scheduled post time of 6:50 p.m. ET.

You can also stream the Stakes live with fuboTV, which offers a seven-day free trial.

Preakness Stakes post positions

Below is the full list of starting spots, as well as each horse’s morning line odds of winning the Preakness Stakes.

Post position Horse Odds
1 Ram 30/1
2 Keepmeinmind 15/1
3 Medina Spirit 9/5
4 Crowded Trade 10/1
5 Midnight Bourbon 5/1
6 Rombauer 12/1
7 France Go De Ina 20/1
8 Unbridled Honor 15/1
9 Risk Taking 15/1
10 Concert Tour 5/2

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Ben Wallace to be inducted into 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Class, per report



Ben Wallace to be inducted into 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Class, per report

The first name of the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame class has been revealed: former Pistons star Ben Wallace.

Marc Spears of The Undefeated first reported the news of Wallace’s impending enshrinement; several other outlets corroborated the report with their own sources. The entire 2021 enshrinement class will be announced on Sunday.

MORE: How to watch Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan’s HOF induction

Wallace attended Cuyahoga Community College (Cleveland, Ohio) from 1992-94 before transferring to Division II program Virginia Union from 1994-96. Despite his prowess at that level — he was a Division II All-American and led the Panthers to the Division II Final Four in 1996 — he went undrafted.

Wallace played for the Bullets/Wizards (1996-99) and Magic (1999-2000) before finding a long-term home with the Pistons. From 2000-06, Wallace averaged 7.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.6 steals per game with Detroit, winning an NBA championship in 2004. He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006 and a four-time All-Star from 2003-06.

Other accolades from that time include making at least All-NBA Third Team every year from 2002-06; earning All-Defensive First Team honors from 2002-06; becoming the NBA rebounds leader in consecutive seasons in 2002 and 2003; and becoming the NBA blocks leader in 2002.

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What channel is UFC 262 on tonight? How to watch, buy Oliveira vs. Chandler on pay-per-view



Oliveira vs. Chandler purse, salaries: How much money will they make at UFC 262?

It’s strap season for Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveira.

After spending the majority of his career with Bellator MMA, the three-time lightweight champ has an opportunity to capture the vacant UFC lightweight championship on Saturday against Oliveira.

MORE: Sign up to watch the UFC 262 PPV, exclusively on ESPN+

Chandler has a hungry and ready opponent in the No. 3-ranked Oliveira: Looking for his first UFC title, the veteran enters this fight on an eight-fight win streak, his last bout a unanimous decision win over Tony Ferguson at UFC 256.

Here’s what you need to know about Saturday night’s UFC event.

What channel is UFC 262?

  • Early prelims: UFC Fight Pass
  • Prelims: ESPN/WatchESPN
  • Main card: ESPN+ (pay-per-view)

The main card of UFC 262 will air exclusively on ESPN+, with early prelims kicking off the show on UFC Fight Pass, moving to ESPN for the prelims.

As with all UFC PPVs and ESPN, the show will air exclusively on ESPN+ at a PPV cost.

What time does Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler start?

  • Early prelims: 6 p.m. ET
  • Prelims: 8 p.m. ET
  • Main card: 10 p.m. ET

The early prelims and preliminaries are expected to start at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET, respectively. The main card starts at 10 p.m. ET. Oliveira and Chandler are expected to make their ring walks around midnight. 

How much does UFC 262 cost on PPV?

  • Date: Saturday, May 15
  • Network: ESPN+

The main card will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN+, meaning you need an ESPN+ subscription to catch the fight. On top of the subscription, there is a price for the event:

  • For current yearly subscribers, the price is $69.99 on the ESPN+ app.
  • Current monthly subscribers can get UFC 262 and an upgraded bundle at a discounted rate of $84.99. They can also purchase the event itself for $69.99.
  • New subscribers will be able to pick up a yearly recurring subscription and the PPV for $89.98, which is a savings of more than 30 percent.

Click here to learn about the different pricing and bundling options with the ESPN+ platform.

UFC 262 fight card

Early prelims

  • Gina Mazany vs. Priscila Cachoeira, women’s flyweights
  • Kevin Aguilar vs. Tucker Lutz, featherweights
  • Christos Giagos vs. Sean Soriano, lightweights


  • ​Lando Vannata vs. Mike Grundy, featherweights
  • Andrea Lee vs. Antonina Shevchenko, women’s flyweights
  • Jordan Wright vs. Jamie Pickett, middleweight
  • Ronaldo Souza vs. André Muniz, middleweights

Main card

  • Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler for vacant UFC lightweight championship
  • Matt Schnell vs. Rogério Bontorin, bantamweights
  • Tony Ferguson vs. Beneil Dariush, lightweights
  • Katlyn Chookagian vs. Viviane Araújo, women’s flyweights
  • Shane Burgos vs. Edson Barboza, featherweights

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