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Data: Baseball Reference; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Baseball is special for many reasons, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who includes pace of play among those positive differentiators.

The state of play: Nine-inning games are lasting a record three hours, nine minutes this season, the third straight year the record will be been broken despite MLB's concerted effort to reverse the trend.

The big picture: Improving pace of play has been one of Rob Manfred's primary goals since becoming commissioner in 2015. Efforts these past six years have included:

  • Prohibiting batters from stepping out of the box.
  • Implementing a between-innings timer.
  • Limiting mound visits and warmup pitches.
  • Instituting a three-batter minimum for relievers.
  • Speeding up the process of manager's challenges.

Of note: In 2020, MLB also introduced seven-inning doubleheaders and an extra-inning "ghost runner" rule. Both shorten games, but neither improves the actual pace of play.

MiLB previously experimented with 20-second pitch clocks at Double-A and Triple-A. Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images

A possible solution: With games getting longer, not shorter, further experimentation is likely coming to MLB. One option that's showing promise in the minors? A pitch clock.

  • The intrigue: Since implementing a 15-second pitch clock in June, Low-A West, a minor league four levels below MLB, has seen its average game decrease by 21 minutes.
  • Even better: Runs and homers are up, while walks and strikeouts are down — perhaps because players stay in better rhythm when they're not constantly stepping off the rubber or adjusting batting gloves.

What they're saying: "At first, I'd say I was skeptical," Low-A manager and former big leaguer Rico Brogna told The Athletic (subscription). "But I have been shocked ... it has been a really, really good addition."

  • "This is the most exciting development that I've seen ... as far as having a positive impact on the game of baseball," added MLB SVP of on-field operations and 19-year veteran Raúl Ibañez.

Go deeper

Biden attends Congressional Baseball Game at Nats Park

President Biden (center) sits with members of the Democrats' baseball team during the Congressional Baseball Game for charity at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday made an appearance at the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park.

Why it matters: Biden's appearance comes amid tense political negotiations on Capitol Hill as lawmakers seek to negotiate the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package as the threat of a government shutdown looms.

Updated 4 mins ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne's spent longer under lockdowns than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.