A federal judge on Friday dismissed most of San Jose’s lawsuit against Major League Baseball, which accused the league of flouting antitrust laws by delaying a proposed move of the Oakland A’s to the South Bay.
U.S District Judge Ronald M. Whyte said San Jose could go ahead with claims that MLB got in the way of an option agreement between the city and the A’s over property for a new stadium. That means the city could still pursue billions of dollars in damages, but has to back down on a court order to allow the A’s to move to San Jose.
Mayor Chuck Reed focused on the upside.
“I am pleased that the judge has allowed our case to move forward,” he said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Major League Baseball’s unfair and anti-competitive actions are costing San Jose residents millions of dollars in annual tax revenues that could go toward paying for more police officers, firefighters, libraries, road repairs and other critical services.”
San Jose filed the lawsuit after waiting for more than four years for a decision from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.
A’s owner Lew Wolff has wanted for several years to move his club from Oakland, where his team suffers weak ticket sales and shares facilities with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. But the San Francisco Giants have blocked a South Bay relocation, maintaining they have territorial rights granted two decades ago.
Whyte writes in Friday’s ruling that although baseball’s antitrust exemption is “unrealistic, inconsistent or illogical,” it still applies to the A’s proposed relocation, which is why he had to dismiss much of the lawsuit. Only legislation, not litigation, can amend the antitrust exemption, which gives the league authority to pick where a team plays since location is part of the organization’s business model.
“The exemption is an ‘aberration’ that makes little sense given the heavily interstate nature of the ‘business of baseball,’” Whyte writes in the 26-page order. “Despite this recognition, the court is still bound by the Supreme Court’s holdings.”
Still, Reed says, at least there’s some progress on the case, which the City Council will review in its next closed session.
“The court’s decision brings us one step closer to paving the way for San Jose to host a major league ball club,” Reed said.