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The MLB pace-of-play debate is back

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Pace of play was one of the very first things that Rob Manfred said he'd like to change as commissioner, and the topic has popped up again and again as the subject of debate during the first two years of his tenure.

Now it's back again, as the prime focus of the quarterly Owners Meetings held last week. Manfred told reporters on Friday that the owners reviewed a set of pace-of-play rule changes that are being discussed with the players' association, and he emphasized that this should be an issue that concerns anyone who loves baseball — "players, owners, umpires, everyone who is invested in this game"— because it's an issue that's key to the popularity of the sport.

We've heard this all before, of course. But — is it actually true?

It's certainly true that keeping baseball popular among young people is good for the long-term welfare of the sport. There are plenty of ways to do that, however, such as capitalizing on the marketability of young stars. (What other sport can claim someone under 25 who's as dominant as Mike Trout right now?) Introducing a pitch clock or tightening restrictions on visits to the mound seem more like small surface-level fixes rather than a way of addressing the problem effectively at its roots.

Most of the pace-of-play changes proposed would shave a few minutes off per game, if even that. People who aren't watching baseball already probably aren't going to start if the average game drops from three hours to two hours and 45 minutes. The pace-of-play conversation is likely only going to keep picking up steam from here, but it's worth questioning why it's a conversation we're having in the first place.