It’s Time to Sue Major League Baseball

It’s nothing short of bizarre that our national pastime, which ostensibly embodies the all-American values of competition and fair play, remains the only business exempt from U.S. monopoly laws. That a single recreational activity deserves such special treatment—absent any economic reason except greed or convenience—should offend our sense of decency.

A Soviet-style central control model opts Major League Baseball out of market forces and accountability. This shameful state of affairs basically allows MLB to break free-market rules, cheat the game with performance enhancers and cheat the public with artificially steroided ticket prices. Memo to team owners: The Free World won, and you guys are dinosaurs.

The United States’ phenomenal prosperity in the 20th Century can be attributed in part to antitrust legislation that promoted competition. The laws prevented any single company from fully dominating their industry. Competitive markets work better than controlled ones because they force organizations to be more efficient and respond to their customers rather than keep prices artificially high.

Who gave a Kremlin in Milwaukee the power to decide whether San Jose could build a stadium with its own money for a baseball team? The United States Supreme Court.

In 1922, nine now-dead justices, including the distinguished William Howard Taft, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Louis Brandeis, decided unanimously that baseball wasn’t interstate commerce. A smart bunch, sure, but not exactly on the cutting edge. Their thinking had been rendered technologically obsolete the previous year, when the 1921 World Series was broadcast by radio for the first time to a market that crossed state lines.

Subsequent court rulings have acknowledged that baseball is in fact an interstate activity that should abide by the same laws that prevent other sport leagues and businesses from engaging in anti-competitive behavior. Yet somehow the anachronistic decision stands, courtesy of judicial and congressional inertia to preserve a special interest carve-out. And it’s not good for the sport, for the fans or for our national claim as the global champion of freedom.

It’s especially bad for San Jose, the nation’s 10th biggest city, with the fans and the land to save a foundering franchise. Nor is it good for the Bay Area, which will lose a team and be at the mercy of the GIants owners, who will charge whatever the market will bear to attend a game or buy a corporate suite to enjoy the region’s only major league baseball team.

It’s time to stop the charade and bring baseball into the 21st Century. Hopefully, some attorneys and red-blooded believers in liberty will step forward and challenge this ridiculous 91-year-old ruling—whether or not San Jose gets a team. 

See also:

An Open Letter to Bud Selig by Josh Koehn

12 Comments

  1. We were promised an election on the A’s stadium.

    Shouldn’t we have that vote before we go on attack?  We’re going to look stupid if we win in court, and then can’t get enough votes to go ahead with it.

    Not that we aren’t stupid. But we’ll look stupid.

  2. This fixation on the A’s is getting tiresome. Giving a millionaire downtown land to build a ball park for other millionaires to play in won’t benefit San Jose. Let the council concentrate on important issues like public safety and cut out the frivolous stuff.

  3. I read the piece as more a general statement about the anticompetitive nature of baseball, not about the economics of building a stadium. The writer advocated “step forward and challenge this ridiculous 91-year-old ruling—whether or not San Jose gets a team” as a matter of principle, which is a legitimate argument.

  4. There are many, many for profit sports leagues in the US… MLB is the most popular for baseball.  NFL for football, etc.  Recently, when the NHL had a labor dispute there was increased interest in a competing league.  Supply and demand at work… Maybe Rufus could start his own pro baseball league to test your monopoly theory?

    Other than the huge (unnecessary)cost to taxpayers, I have no axe to grind about bringing Giants to San Jose.  Baseball team owners are flush with money, if they see an opportunity to make more money, then they should pay the full cost for that “investment”.  Taxpayers don’t need to give them sweetheart deals on land or tax breaks.  Especially when all we’ve heard about for a decade is that San Jose doesn’t have enough revenue.  Police Officers were laid off for the first time ever, which didn’t even happen during the Depression.  Now we there’s $22 Million dollars of land we can give to man whose net worth is around $3.3 Billion?

  5. Im all for having a baseball team here in San Jose , But Doesnt it just make to get our house in Order first??  Our streets are @$#@ our Trees Bush’s & Weeds are all over grown to the point that you cant even read street signs because they are blocked by trees. Graffiti is out of control , Gangs are on the upswing , All crimes have increased dramatically , The city is failing miserably at providing services for residents , especially in the area of Public Safety , Our City is severly being mismanaged , Corruption is everywhere in City hall . These are all things that should be taken care of before we even consider bringing a team here . I dont know about most people , But I for one DO NOT TRUST this Mayor or Council , for many reasons. I do want a team here but it has to be done the right way and with ALL details out in the Open

  6. “The owners of the Baltimore Terrapins, pictured here, sued Major League Baseball for violating the Clayton Antitrust Act and won, but the Supreme overturned the ruling, saying baseball games were “purely state affairs.”

    Geez. Even the owner of this blog can’t get a competent editor, EXCEPT when it comes to censoring comments they don’t agree with.
    Clue:

    <insert the word COURT following SUPREME>

  7. It’s ironic that this blog goes on and talks about petty sports politics when 3 were murder, 180 injured in the bombing of Boston. Since then, one police officer was murdered, another in critical condition.

    What if that happened here? Would we still be talking about baseball coming to San Jose? I would say no. Just something to think about.

  8. Does the city of San Jose even have standing in this issue?

    Why can’t Las Vegas or Sacramento or Phoenix sue to have a baseball team?

    He’ll, I might sue so I can move them to my backyard. Blow harder City of San Jose you have no case!

  9. Brilliant!!! Go ahead and sue…make sure that if you win that part of the judgment is a court order mandating that the MLB “green lights” and orders the A’s move to SJ. Without a win and without that order the only thing the lawsuit will accomplish is a guarantee that San Jose will never see an MLB team inside its City Limits.

    While we are all waiting, the A’s might want to get something longer than a 5year contract extention with the City of Oakland because it might take a while for the suit and any subsequent appeals to sort out.