We just passed the silver anniversary of one of the most confirmative moments in sports for me: Nov. 19, 1996. It happened in baseball, when the game was a few seasons into recovering from a 232-day work stoppage that canceled the 1994 World Series. The owners, led by Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, had been pushing for a salary cap. The players went on strike, and the owners later unilaterally installed their salary cap. Then a district court judge, Sonia Sotomayor, ruled against the owners, which kick-started a shortened 1995 season.

But while Reinsdorf was the voluble leader of the owners’ charge to rein in player salaries, right up to rejecting a new labor contract in the fall of 1996 that would have imposed a luxury tax on high-spending teams, it was also Reinsdorf who gave me so much clarity Nov. 19, 1996. On that day, he was the first owner to leap into the new free agent pool, where he netted Albert Belle, at that time arguably the best player in baseball, with the largest contract the game had witnessed: a then-mindboggling $55 million, five-year contract.

It was enough to make me apply to baseball owners the infamous quote attributed to boxing promoter Bob Arum: “Yesterday, I was lying. Today, I’m telling the truth.”

Who can trust owners?

So when MLB announced last week its first work stoppage since now-Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor effectively ended its previous one close to three decades ago, I wasn’t conflicted, no matter Commissioner Rob Manfred’s letter to fans blaming the players and their union for having to throw ice on the hot stove.

“This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive,” Manfred wrote.

I think it mostly would threaten the ability of multibillionaire owners to become the first trillionaires. After all, they’ve actually shrunk average player salaries over the past few years. They continue to manipulate players’ service time, by which young stars have their free agency delayed, all the while making rosters younger — or cheaper.

The only money this is about, yet again, is how much the owners — whom I’ve yet to go to a ballpark hoping to see perform — can keep for themselves. How else to explain why the Washington Nationals’ season ticket-holders consortium I’m part of saw its price increase more than 20 percent for next season — even after the Lerners tossed 28-year-old five-tool all-star shortstop Trea Turner into a fire-sale trade of Max Scherzer to the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving the left side of the infield in need of a complete rebuild after previously letting the team’s 2019 World Series hero, third baseman Anthony Rendon, go to the Los Angeles Angels? How? (But, hey, this isn’t personal, and I’m not bitter!)

These squabbles have been about the owners’ money, and control, since John Montgomery Ward founded the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players in 1885 as the first pro sports labor union and broke away to start his own league, albeit briefly, because of the difficulty of competing against the owners of the major leagues. But all he wanted was a greater share of the revenue he was producing and the ability not to be bound forever to one team — in other words, free agency.

“Base Ball depends on two interdependent divisions,” Ward said, “the one to have absolute control of the system, the other to engage in the actual work of production.”

The agent to so many of baseball’s biggest stars, Scott Boras, reiterated as much last month in remarks at a virtual presentation of Maryland’s Shirley Povich Symposium. The topic was Curt Flood, who on Christmas Eve 1969 as center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals wrote a letter to then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn refusing a trade to Philadelphia.

“I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes,” Flood wrote. “I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.”

Flood didn’t realize the fruit of his boldness. Kuhn and the owners for whom he worked rejected his demand. But in 1975, the pressure Flood brought upon baseball produced some freedom for players to play for whom they desired. Yet players are still fighting for a less restrictive freedom all these years later — and for a more equitable share of the pie they make and bake. Free agency isn’t as free as the term implies. And I’ll side with labor for as much as it can get.

Boras, not surprisingly, sees free agency and player salaries under threat. “The real burdens on free agency began in ’96 when Commissioner [Bud] Selig came out and said that we need parity, we need to have faith and hope in the game, we need to make sure that all clubs have some sort of equal footing to compete,” Boras told the symposium audience. “We looked at this and said, ‘This is a veiled threat,’ because really what this is about isn’t about parity. It’s really about how I can put more money and more profitability [in the owners’ pockets] and pay players less.”

Boras pointed to the luxury (“competitive balance”) tax, a cap on drafted players’ salaries and an increase in franchise values as ways in which the economics of the game are inequitably distributed — and as reasons the owners’ arguments are not to be trusted.

I point to Reinsdorf’s duplicity a quarter-century ago as evidence of what I long felt about these showdowns. And did I mention my Nationals ticket prices?