San Jose Officials Blame Bud Selig for Antitrust Lawsuit

More than four years have passed since Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig formed a committee to study the best places for the Oakland A’s to play ball. But what’s the point of studying something if that knowledge is never put to the test?

On Tuesday, the city of San Jose announced time was up and filed a federal lawsuit challenging MLB’s antitrust exemption, part of which prevents teams from relocating without approval of the league and other team owners. A’s owner Lew Wolff has repeatedly stated his desire to move the club to San Jose, but the San Francisco Giants have insisted they have territorial rights granted in the early ’90s that should prevent the A’s from coming to the South Bay.

That will now be decided in court.

“I just realized we were never going to get an answer from Major League Baseball,” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said at a press conference Tuesday. Coming to a decision last week, Reed said he brought the matter to a vote in the City Council’s closed session. In almost unheard of solidarity, the lawsuit had unanimous support.

Reed added: “Like I said in the past: It’s a last resort if it’s necessary, and I think that it’s necessary.”

Hiring noted antitrust attorney Joe Cotchett, the city believes the lawsuit will be settled out of court—with the A’s finally coming to San Jose, where the team would play across the street from the San Jose Sharks’ newly renamed arena, the SAP Center.

“This is not really a legal issue; this is all about competition,” Cotchett boomed into a microphone at City Hall. “We’re going to ask commissioner Selig to come to a federal courtroom here in San Jose or in San Francisco and explain why he and his 30 auditors have constantly stopped the 10th largest city in the nation from being competitive with other cities.”

The lawsuit’s key arguments focus on the national antitrust laws—a sticky subject for the league, as the exemption was granted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922 and no other business in the country still enjoys such an exemption—and MLB’s interference in the contract between the city of San Jose and Wolff, who put a deposit down on property that would be used for the San Jose stadium. On three occasions, cities have sued MLB based on antitrust laws, and all three times the league settled out of court.

Councilmember Sam Liccardo, whose district contains some of the land that would be used for the proposed stadium, says an independent study of downtown shops, hotels and restaurants shows that a new ballpark would result in $83 million in direct spending. But while Wolff, a principal in San Jose’s Fairmont Hotel, wants nothing more than for his team to head south, he expresses no interest in going the route that San Jose has chosen.

“Lew Wolff does not support the city filing a lawsuit against his fellow team owners,” Liccardo said Tuesday, noting that Wolff told him as much in a conversation.

But County Assessor Larry Stone, who has been a leading advocate of the team’s relocation to San Jose, suggested a game of good cop-bad cop could be underlying Wolff’s and the city’s public positions.

“Well, I’m sure that Lew is ‘officially’ saying that he’s not happy with it,” Stone said. “This might be coming from both directions. He’s a cooperative guy and he wants to play it out through the system. But San Jose isn’t in that same position.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the timing of a conversation between Councilmember Sam Liccardo and Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff. San Jose Inside regrets the error.

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

10 Comments

  1. and then there is Chuck, “I just realized we were never going to get an answer from Major League Baseball,” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said.

    What an idiot, no wonder this city is falling apart, he just doesn’t get it.  Plain and simple.

  2. I pray MLB will counter that San Jose, a city whose voters twenty years ago said “no thanks” to the then desperate Giants, and one whose mayor only two years ago declared a fiscal emergency, has demonstrated neither the public support nor the requisite government competence to qualify for the big leagues.

    Maybe, as a consolation, MLB will erect a statue of Walter Alston outside city hall. It would be appropriate for two reasons: first, like Quetzalcoatl, Alston was ugly and had no connection to San Jose; second, like San Jose, Alston struck out in his only appearance at the plate in the big leagues.

  3. The “Obstructionist” now knows how it feels to try and negotiate in good faith but be rebuffed.  If there’s such thing as karma, Selig will hold a meeting with Rufas and threaten a vote of the owners if he doesn’t compromise.  Stadium is expected to cost $650 million, off the top of his head.  The owners will then overwhelmingly vote for “baseball reform” in which San Jose must make up whatever profits MLB can’t recoup from stadium costs…

  4. Chupacubra,

    Great shot Karl Mondon / Staff Mercury News photographer. Excellent article by Daniel Brown, Mercury News!
    Cal- Carolina series produced player as Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval.
    Where was Larry Stone, Mayor Reed , Sam Licardo, for the All Star Batting Championship, at The San Jose Giants home field?
    For me it is a terrible disconnect, between guys that are suppose to be about our American way of life. First hosted in 1949!
    This smells of money, not Heritage! Grrrrr!
    Bud Selig, these guys have not supported our home team that is Americana. What makes anyone feel they will support a MLB team. Our children that have been abandoned by the corporations and politicians, need a stable place to find their mentors, as we did 50 years ago.
    I fear for our children, that politics want only
    to sue, while neglecting the very life blood of our Valley Of Hearts Delight. Our San Jose Giants!
    You and the eastside political ner do wells , must step aside and allow Us to enjoy, the gifts of those that nurtured our inheritance, for the future!
    You have neglected the very people you are intrusted to support!!

    The Village Black Smith

  5. This fixation on the A’s is getting tiresome. The city needs to drop this suit. 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, like subsides to rich people.

  6. Bud has nothing but himself blamed for this mess.  He’s a hoodlum and a thug.  He didn’t allow A’s to move to San Jose because he’s so jealous of this city.  He came to SJ back in 2007 to give a speech at the convention center, and he went, “wow, I got to do anything I can to slow this city’s progress down since it’s clobbering Milwaukee in terms of downtown progress and big city facilities.”  Milwaukee is Bud’s hometown, and he was jealous of San Jose, period.  Nobody knew, not even his old frat pal, Lou Wolf.  Hopefully, the roof is caving on him now like a piled up storm that got held by a high pressure system, which just gave way.

  7. Once again government trying to tell private business how it should run its business. This city is a joke. In the end it will be the tax payers who will suffer. If the move is approved it will cost the tax payers BILLIONS in infrastructure improvements and the cost of the stadium itself. Look at the airport which has a debt in excess of 2 Billion dollars that we the tax payers have yet to pay off. No wonder the City of San Jose is on the watch list of cities likely to file bankruptcy.

  8. So what he’s saying is , that he wont pay for Public Safety but he will do whatever it takes for “a Game”  . There is nothing honest or sincere in disgustingly arrogant Mayor . I used to be a proud San Josean , but that was before “The Reed Years”. Dont get me wrong , Im all for a sports team for San Jose. I just have a hard time believing ANYTHING that this Mayor has anything to do with. He is a Confirmed Liar.

          Its comical to me that this Mayor wants to deal with MLB , but refuses to deal with City employees in an open and honest manner .

  9. Chuck,

    Measure B and every law suit will fail.  Hope I never have oi use your firm in a litigation.  Unless I want to go bankrupt.

    Appreciate running SJ into the ground.

  10. Motion for summary adjudication of issues is DENIED…. The train has left the station… Next stop Superior Court Congratulations Fig on the first of many costly legal blunders that you are your unethical clan have hatched. Although, like Chuck, you have plenty of family to fall back on… I wonder if a Public records disclosure would reveal any favoritism toward certain construction contracts between the City of San Jose and DeMattei Construction…. Inquiring minds want to know