The San Jose City Council voted Tuesday to sue Major League Baseball over the stalled proposal to move the Oakland A’s to a new downtown ballpark, and the city has filed suit in federal court. The lawsuit challenges baseball’s long-standing antitrust exemption.
From the San Jose Mercury News …
The lawsuit argues MLB’s decree that the San Francisco Giants have exclusive territorial rights to San Jose, which the defending World Series champions refuse to relinquish, constitutes unlawful restraint of trade.
“For years, MLB has unlawfully conspired to control the location and relocation of major league men’s professional baseball clubs under the guise of an ‘antitrust exemption’ applied to the business of baseball,” said the 44-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose. The suit, which accuses MLB of a “blatant conspiracy,” is being handled at no city cost by the Burlingame law firm of Joseph W. Cotchett, which has handled some of the largest antitrust cases in the nation and represented the NFL in similar litigation.
The Merc article also has a good recap of the unsuccessful past attempts to break Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption.
The suit, which you can read below, claims San Jose has suffered losses in the millions of dollars related to direct spending and tax revenue.
The A’s are not a part of the suit except technically as defendants, inasmuch as as they are one of 30 MLB teams.
The A’s-to-San Jose saga — some might call it a pipedream at this point — is a long and tortured affair. In a nutshell, the A’s want to move to San Jose and San Jose wants the A’s to move to San Jose but the Giants, who own the territorial rights to the area, don’t want the A’s to move to San Jose. (Rankling the A’s further: the team actually ceded those rights to the Giants in the 1990s, with no report of compensation.)
Major League Baseball has been “studying” the issue since 2009, soon after the team abandoned a plan to move the team to Fremont. Virtually no progress has been reported. Actually, strike the “virtually.” But any comments from Major League Baseball on the issue have been, if anything, discouraging.
Oakland, of course, still wants to keep its team, and has proposed its own alternatives to the much-derided O.co Coliseum (formerly Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum), where the A’s have played since 1968. (In an “oh-no-they-di-in’t” moment, someone on the San Jose side of things even brought up the recent O.co sewage mess at the lawsuit presser.) Though the city, fans and business community have pressed the A’s to reconsider staying in Oakland, owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher have not appeared receptive.
San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy is calling the lawsuit a “thoughtfully “audacious move.”
“If nothing else, this move may goad Selig and the other owners into action,” he writes. “No one likes to spend money defending themselves in a lawsuit. And the lead lawyer for San Jose in the case, Joseph Cotchett, has a national track record of challenging companies and corporations to the max.”
CSN Bay Area’s Ray Ratto writes that the A’s are most likely not in favor of the lawsuit, because they have always made it clear they want to work through MLB. “Nothing, after all, says low-percentage move quite like riling a large corporate entity with an antitrust exemption and established rights to deal with their own franchises as they see fit.”
Update: Oakland Mayor Jean Quan weighed in with this statement …
Instead of lawsuits, Oakland is focused on building a new stadium for the A’s here in their hometown. We’ve offered two sites: Howard Terminal is a beautiful waterfront location facing the Bay, and Coliseum City is one of the great development projects of our time. Both would make fantastic sites for a new stadium.
In the meantime, we’re still negotiating a lease extension for the team and I’m confident we can reach a fair deal.
Of course, Oaklanders are the best, the loudest and the most devoted baseball fans in the nation. The Oakland A’s have the fifth highest increase in per-game attendance over 2012 in Major League Baseball.
We’re ready to negotiate any time the A’s want to come to the table. Let’s play ball!
Some selected Tweets …
San Jose should have added a sewage count to the complaint. Emotional distress on the grounds that “ew that’s gross”
— Jason Wojciechowski (@jlwoj) June 18, 2013
A’s in San Jose is best for the team’s short-term and long-term success. Oakland fans need be selfless and let team go for the best
— JJ (@NorCalBoxingFan) June 18, 2013
2014 giveaways: Juror seat cushions. “Keep your butt comfy while you listen to 8 years of testimony!”
— Tony Two-Tone (@TonyTwo_Tone) June 18, 2013
San Jose claims its budget shortfalls are because the A’s haven’t been there. Columbus would do better if Disney World were here.
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) June 18, 2013