SBD/October 14, 2013/Franchises

Judge Gives Split Decision On San Jose's Suit Over Potential A's Move

U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte on Friday shot down the city of San Jose's illegal-monopoly claims against MLB over a stalled A's move but "still let the city pursue a case involving a ballpark-land deal with the team," according to John Woolfolk of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The ruling acknowledged that the league's unique antitrust exemption "seems illogical but that it was beyond his authority to change it." The ruling left both sides "claiming victory in the dispute over the A's four-plus-year effort to build a new San Jose ballpark" despite the Giants' territorial objections. San Jose officials "cheered the chance to continue litigation, which they hope will ultimately lead MLB to greenlight the A's move." However, Univ. of Georgia business law professor Nathaniel Grow said, "From a legal perspective, it's a huge win for Major League Baseball. They get rid of the most dangerous claims. The one claim that's left isn't of itself going to get San Jose a baseball team." Woolfolk noted San Jose could potentially "ask the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the ruling." The A's have sought a move to San Jose since '09 after "efforts to develop a ballpark in Oakland and Fremont faltered." However, San Jose "lies in territory MLB gave" the Giants in the early '90s, and the Giants have "steadfastly opposed an A's move to Silicon Valley" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/12).

THE BEAT GOES ON: In San Jose, Lauren Hepler noted the decision "leaves the door open for the city to pursue its claims that the holdup has inhibited San Jose's economic development." Whyte wrote that the interference claims are "separate from the alleged violation of antitrust law and instead are based on MLB's delay in making a relocation decision." He added that the city "may not need a valid stadium contract to claim injury." Hepler writes the city's remaining hope, in other words, is "whether MLB's indecision is harming the city economically by holding up the stadium project." San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is "sticking to his refrain that the city stands to benefit hugely from the move" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/11). Also in San Jose, Mark Purdy wrote under the header "A's To San Jose Issue Far From Over." The dispute is "going to last a while, perhaps a few years." It is probably going to "get more bloody -- at least in terms of depositions and paperwork -- before it's over." However, the end result "might indeed bring the Athletics to San Jose in the long run." The A's are "technically bystanders in all of this," but if A's Owner Lew Wolff is "patient, he and co-owner John Fisher could indeed wind up getting the rights to build a San Jose ballpark." But San Jose "has not lost anything, really." The dismissal "basically puts the city right back where it started in terms of waiting" for MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig to decide the A's ballpark dilemma. The case "puts San Jose in position to keep forcing the issue" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/12).
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