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.