City of San Jose Sues MLB over A’s Move

The City of San Jose has sued major league baseball for refusing to allow the now Oakland A’s to move to the San Francisco Bay Area’s largest city.  San Jose is alleging unfair business practices and anti-competitive conduct in refusing to allow the move. The Oakland A’s are not plaintiffs to the lawsuit, and the team and its owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher claim they didn’t know anything about the lawsuit until they read about in the news today like everyone else.

I’ve been writing for some time that a deal needs to be worked out to allow the A’s to move to San Jose, with the San Francisco Giants getting some kind of monetary pay-off from MLB and/or the A’s to allow the latter to move into what is now the Giants’ “territory.”  Here’s my last such post from last November.

All of the good reasons for allowing the A’s to move to San Jose remain, and there’s still no truly good reason why a deal can’t be worked out with the Giants to allow the move.  I simply cannot be convinced that the Giants’ attendance or TV ratings are going to be hurt by moving the Bay Area’s other team more than twice as far away from San Francisco and AT&T Park as it is now.

I don’t think this lawsuit is about anything other than forcing MLB to finally make a decision about whether the A’s can move to San Jose.  I don’t think there’s any way this case gets decided in San Jose’s favor.

MLB has an anti-trust exemption recognized by not one, but three, U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1922, 1953 and 1971.  In the 1971 Curt Flood case, the Supreme Court’s majority opinion basically said that the anti-trust exemption makes no sense (no other professional sports league in the U.S. has such an exemption), but that MLB’s exemption has been upheld twice before and is thus binding precedent.  The Supreme Court majority further stated that if Congress felt the court-made anti-trust exemption for MLB is inappropriate, Congress could pass legislation eliminating MLB’s anti-trust exemption but has not done so.

The Flood majority opinion was a classic kick-the-can-to-someone-else decision, but it is, in fact, the case that Congress has been perfectly able to pass legislation removing MLB’s anti-trust exemption ever since 1922, but has never done so.  Many Congresspeople and senators have been very sympathetic to MLB’s arguments that removing the anti-trust exemption would irreparably damage baseball, and others don’t think the matter is really important enough for the effort it would take to pass such legislation.

The upshot is that I don’t think that five Supreme Court justices are going to vote to change the Court’s long-standing precedent now.

Even taking this issue back to the Supreme Court is going to take several years and will costs hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars of attorneys’ fees to get it there, since the case must proceed through the lower courts, which have no real leeway to do anything but follow the Supreme Court’s three prior decisions.  This lawsuit is simply about San Jose trying to force MLB to do the only sensible thing — allowing the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a beautiful new stadium for the A’s, which is ultimately the best possible outcome not just for the A’s but also for all of major league baseball.

Explore posts in the same categories: Oakland A's, San Francisco Giants

4 Comments on “City of San Jose Sues MLB over A’s Move”

  1. bob healy Says:

    The City of San Jose is a financial mess. They need funds for their schools a lot more than a baseball team. John Fisher is a rich man and needs to step up to the plate with his funds rather than having the City of San Jose build a stadium for him. I really do not think baseball will bring in all the money the city thinks it will. The costs for police, roads, land and stadiums costs all must be figured in and I really don’t think the City will get all the income they are forecasting.

    • Burly Says:

      Numerous studies by economists have shown that using public money to pay all or most of the costs of building a stadium for a professional sports team is almost never a good investment for cities and counties compared with other possible investments of the amount of money involved. San Jose, however, has long felt itself to be in the shadow of San Francisco and has a strong desire to be a “major league” city, even if it’s inferiority complex is completely irrational. As far as MLB is concerned, if it can find a city, county or state with a major league sized population base willing to spring for all or a substantial part of the costs to build a new stadium, it should jump on the opportunity with both feet. There aren’t nearly as many localities willing to blow several hundred million dollars just to get a major league baseball team these days as there once were.


  2. The presumed targets of a lawsuit would be the San Francisco Giants and Major League Baseball, whose long-standing and unique antitrust exemption would be put to the test. The Giants’ territorial claims, upheld by Major League Baseball, have blocked the A’s move. And the Giants’ minor league affiliate has joined in suing San Jose over environmental approval of the proposed A’s ballpark.


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