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.