Sports leagues tinker with sacred traditions

If you’re a sports purist, this might be the day to avoid sports news.

First, the St. Paul Saints have announced that the league in which they toil will adopt a new rule — tested in 2014 — next season.

In extra-inning games, an inning will start with a runner already at second, according to a news release today.

Starting in the 11th inning, the player in the batting order immediately preceding that inning’s leadoff hitter will be placed on second base. The inning will otherwise proceed as usual, with each team getting a turn at bat.

Should the player starting the inning on second base eventually score, it will count in the statistics as a run for the player and an RBI for the batter who drove him in (if applicable), but will not count towards the pitcher’s earned-run average.

American Association commissioner Miles Wolff commented, “This rule was very well-received in the Can-Am League last year, and we’re looking forward to using this innovation in the American Association.”

Why would the rule find favor? Because it increases the likelihood that the game will end.

Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association is going to experiment with an attempt to shorten games, though the move falls somewhat short of the usual suggestion to just begin the game with two minutes left to play.

It will try a 44-minute game on Sunday in a game between Brooklyn and Boston, USA Today reports. Under current rules, the game is 48 minutes.

“We have looked at everything that we do and are taking a fresh look at all the different things we do,” NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn said. “One of the things that keeps coming up is our schedule and the length of our games. … Our coaches talked about it, and a lot of them seemed to be in favor of at least taking a look at it. We talked with our competition committee, and they were in favor of taking a look at it.”

There are better ways: Reducing the number of timeouts (something the experiment will include), restricting free-throw shooting in the final minutes.

As it is, the experiment will likely find this conclusion: It takes four fewer minutes to get to the final two minutes that never seem to end.

USA Today calculates that over the course of a season, about seven games worth of minutes will be eliminated.

  • Gary F

    First, no place to tailgate, and now this! My Saints days are over. Next thing you know it will be courtesy runners for the catcher.

  • joetron2030

    With regard to the NBA, I assume reducing the number of broadcast commercial break-induced game delays is out of the question.

  • David P.

    Why not let the batting team provide the pitcher in extra innings, a bunt is an out and any pitch not swung at is a strike?
    PS Gary F’s idea, courtesy runners – excellent!

      • David P.

        The only player to have his position listed as “Pinch Runner”. Gotta love Charlie Finley. He had another, Allen Lewis, the “Panamanian Express” when the A’s were in KC.
        In 1968, Gates Brown’s position was listed as “Pinch Hitter”, playing for Billy Martin’s Tigers. A precursor to the DH.
        The majors actually allowed courtesy runners until 1949 – you could sub in a runner without taking someone out of the line-up. If one of the ideas for the DH was to extend the careers of some popular, big stick players, a courtesy runner makes sense, too. Towards the end of their careers, Mantle, Killebrew and Musial were regularly removed for a pinch runner. A courtesy runner would have kept them in the game, and perhaps, kept fans in the park.

  • Robert Moffitt

    More proof that James Earl Jones was wrong about baseball, after all.

  • David

    MLB is also trying some rule changes in the Arizona Fall League this year to speed up games. One of the rules being tried out: pitch clocks (like a shot clock in basketball)

    • kevinfromminneapolis

      I like this. I don’t like what the Saints or some of what it says the NBA is doing, I think it fundamentally alters the game. But I’m skeptical anything will be done with any sport as long as it remains more profitable to get the TV revenue than shorten games.

      • Matt

        Agreed re: Saint’s proposal is game-altering and should be rejected. NBA’s proposal is less so, as it is shortening the minutes and not fundamentally altering the way the game is played. I’d like to see a chart of how much real (i.e. not game) time is spent on playing time, commercials, halftime, etc. for basketball and other sports where there is a push to shorten the game. To pull a quote from the realm of backpacking, cuts pounds not ounces, when trying to reduce pack weight.

    • David P.

      If they got rid of batting gloves and made the batter stay in the box between pitches…

    • I think there’s a pitch clock now (45 seconds). It’s just never enforced. The last time I saw it enforced was Rafael Bettencourt. I think the AFL is using 20 second clocks.

      I totally agree with this idea of not letting batters step out after every pitch and would love to see umpires refuse to grant the time or otherwise call any pitch a strike that occurs while the player is adjusting his helmet .

      Also, I would favor actually enforcing the existing strike zone.

  • MikeB

    It took awhile just to get leagues to try new rule changes. For the NBA they also should look at no live ball timeouts. The biggest help will never come – fewer regular season games.

    For baseball they could restrict the time between pitches. If you ever watch an old MLB game it is shocking to see the pitcher get the ball then pitch it right away. Crazy.

    But the owners have a disincentive to shorten games – less advertising revenue opportunities. In the game between aesthetics and $, it has always been a rout.

    • David P.

      30 years ago, an average MLB game was just over 2 hours and 30 minutes. Now it is over 3 hours long. Yawn!

  • tboom

    Start the game in the 10 th inning with the official score 9-9 (the fans love runs). Every batter in the lineup will be credited with a RBI and a run scored. Vendors can serve beer until the end of the game.