It's nearly spring. Do you know what that means? If you're a fan of baseball, it should mean the sound of a bat against a baseball. An umpire calling balls and strikes. That particular "thonk" sound that's created when a baserunner steals second base. But most of all, we hear the cheers of the fans in the stands as they cheer on the game or their favorite player.

But the Major League Baseball (MLB) ballparks that help to create that sound are mostly silent today, other than a scattered few seagulls hanging out in San Francisco, hoping to snag a garlic fry or two in the confines of an empty ballpark. The MLB Lockout or player strike or whatever you want to label it has created the Sound of Silence that Simon and Garfunkel once crooned about.

Many baseball fans blame the owners. Some fans blame the players. Still, others blame both. But the biggest loser in all of this is us. We are the baseball fans. While we'd rather not hear Simon and Garfunkel strike up the band again, this is what MLB owners and players have combined to force-feed us this spring: the Sound of Silence.

"It's unfortunate and it's also sad that the league office and Rob (Manfred) and the ownership groups are being so callous with the fans and the game, the sport we all love," Giants outfielder Austin Slater said recently on KNBR's "Murph & Mac" podcast.

That's nice. Blame that loser, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. He's a loser. You certainly won't find any argument from former Giants pitcher turned broadcaster Mike Krukow, who recently told KNBR that Manfred would make the perfect villain in the next Batman movie.

"Who's to say that fans will come back the same that they always have after seeing this lockout persist and just the way the league has handled it throughout this whole process," Krukow said. "Delaying, delaying, delaying, delaying, instead of negotiating in good faith."

Players might see Manfred as a loser. There are certainly some fans who probably feel the same way. But he's not. Manfred isn't the loser in all of this. The real loser is us: the fan base. When this public display of spoiled rotten behavior exhibited by both players and owners finally comes to an end, and it will end, the biggest loser will be you and me.

Make no doubt about it. MLB fans will be the villain in the next Batman or any other fake superhero movie, and we will be made to pay for our love of the game in numerous and inventive ways that I can't possibly dream of. But somebody will. Someone has to pay the bill. MLB owners aren't willing to do that. Neither are the players. This is why there's no professional baseball. So, in the end, fans like us will pay.

Will the average cost of a ticket go up? Perhaps. According to the latest figures (2019), the average ticket to watch the Giants play in San Francisco costs $38.50. But that's just for one ticket for one person. If you're the average fan with a spouse and children, the average cost just jumped to $160 or higher.

Parking at the game is going to set you back an additional $100 or more, depending on where you park or if you can even find a space. By the time you figure in the price of your favorite snack such as garlic fries, or perhaps a hotdog and a soft drink, the hit to your wallet just rose to $400 or $500 or higher. Of course, better seats than "average" can be purchased, which means a bigger hit on the wallet.

It doesn't stop there, however. The cost for the privilege of watching the game at home will almost certainly go up in the form of higher cable television bills by the time players and owners stop acting like children. If your cable or satellite television bill is high already, you haven't seen the "Baseball Fan" surcharge yet.

These costs are almost certainly going to go up by the time players and owners stop playing this silly game because someone has to pay. Someone will pay. Fans like you and me will pay. The average MLB player makes anywhere from $4 million to $1.5 million per season. Someone has to pay for that. Someone will, and it's not Rob Manfred.

It would be nice if owners or players used the additional earnings they are expected to pocket from TV broadcasts or other revenue streams to cut ticket prices or other costs for fans, but who are we kidding? You have a better chance of Krukow and Slater springing for the cost of your costume as you, the fan, prepare for your epic role as the villain in the next Batman movie.