The rhetoric has escalated, it’s getting ugly, and folks are being downright mean.You’ll soon be asked, perhaps forced, to pick a side. It’s you vs. them. Old vs. new. Progre sive vs. conservative.No, it’s not the 2016 presidential election. It’s the 2016 baseball season. But it’s getting hard to tell the difference.MORE: Most-hated MLB players since 2000 |Sports owners and their support for failed presidential candidatesMore and more, it seems, baseball fandom demands a declaration of loyalty to one faction or another. The debates aren’t always loud, the rancor not always strong. But both are there, both are growing and both are annoying Denny McLain Jersey .Are you pro-stats or pro-scouting?Are you pro-bat flips or pro-unwritten rules?Should the Hall of Fame include PED suspects and convicts or should those players be punished forever?You must choose, you must label and you must be labeled. Otherwise, how will anyone know who to hate-follow and troll in baseball Twitter?Yes, fans, choose a side and help fight for the future of the game. That’s the growing me sage on both sides. And whichever side you choose, the other side is happy to tell you just how wrong you are.Forget nuance. Forget fence-straddling. As in politics, there seems to be no room for a sensible moderate.Baseball, for decades an escape from the real-world debates and arguments that bring stre s and turmoil, has developed its own set of disputes that often bring out the worst in people.Just like the silline s we see in politics, our stances on these modern baseball debates are used by others to define us as fans, or even as people, to a se s our baseball intelligence and, sometimes, to diagnose our morality on deeper social i sues.Just like in politics, the loudest voices set the tone. Extremists on both sides continue to dig in, with hyperbole always at the ready.You care about pitcher wins? You’re an idiot.You don’t care about pitcher wins? You’re ignorant.You like bat flips? You’re ruining America.You don’t like bat flips? You’re probably a racist.Mike Trout over Miguel Cabrera for MVP? Save it, nerd!Sound familiar?MORE: Trout doesn’t condone bat flip | Bonds outhomers StantonAn optimistic person might say the rhetoric is limited to social media wars. But no. Some of it has invaded pre s boxes, clubhouses and front offices, too.”It’s almost like you have to be Republican or Democrat. Are you East Coast rap or West Coast? Are you for stats or are you for scouting? I don’t know. Can I really be in between? Because I am,Angels GM Billy Epler told the Los Angeles Times last week.”It’s only (seen as) black and white. Nobody wants gray, but gray’s the best. That’s what makes this game great. There is no absolute.”Epler’s right. There are gray areas in baseball, just as in politics. Too few fans and media members want to embrace the gray. That could Jordan Zimmermann Jersey be bad for your reputation. But the gray is where progre s is made. It’s where discu sions flourish. It’s where understanding begins.For now, though, we mostly just have a lot of noise, angst and folks ready to man battle stations to defend whatever position has taken the spotlight that day.The personalities seem oddly familiar. So do the me sages.There’s Goose Go sage, likely speaking for thousands as he boisterously aches for the past and uses subtle racism to call for baseball to be great again.There’s Bryce Harper, likely speaking for thousands as he appeals to a younger generation to do away with the old traditions that’ve kept the game from changing for the better.There’s Sergio Romo, likely speaking for thousands as he tells Harper to just shut up after the reigning NL MVP shared his thoughts on baseball’s tired unwritten rules.Things are tired, all right.Those are just the latest examples. But they all point to this: It’s getting harder and harder to discu s the state of the game without it eventually delving into the type of mean-spirited arguments usually reserved for political talking heads and, lately, political debate stages.MORE: Ranking baseball’s dumbest unwritten rules| Mike Trout doesn’t condone bat flipsIt just needs to stop. It’s one thing to have healthy, informed and even pa sionate debate. But that’s not what we have now and that’s certainly not where we’re headed.Everyone needs to calm down and stand down. There’s room for everybody.We don’t need to form factions and take sides on everything. The stakes just aren’t that high, at least not for fans and the media.It’s OK if you don’t understand Wins Above Replacement or other advanced stats. But maybemake an honest attempt to learn before you dismi s it in favor of batting average and RBIs.It’s OK if you like bat flips. It’s OK if you don’t. It’s also OK to have no opinion. None of the positions will destroy the Victor Martinez Jersey game.Whatever your pet baseball i sue, it’s fine to stand firm in your belief. Just know that civility can only help your case. Also know that you might be wrong.There will always be ignorant and uninformed opinions, about baseball and about most anything else. But this is where sensible fans must rise above the noise, embrace that gray, make a good case and, to use a political phrase, build bridges. That may sound overwrought, but the past week in baseball politics shows that’s where we are.Baseball is still supposed to be fun. These are not moral i sues. Our opinions on stats and bat flips are not always a window into our souls. Lives are not at stake. The game is still great regardle s of where we fall on the spectrum of silly baseball politics.This election season is already awful enough. Let’s not make baseball the next battleground. The game is much better as a distraction than as a destructor.