Appeals court bounces San Jose antitrust case to Supreme Court, A’s aren’t moving anywhere anytime soon

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the city of San Jose’s claim that MLB’s refusal to allow the Oakland A’s to move to the South Bay is a violation of antitrust law. The Supreme Court giveth baseball its antitrust exemption wrote the judges in a unanimous verdict, and only the Supreme Court can take it away or modify it:

(Thanks to Newballpark.org for the screenshot.)

Sports law experts were split on the viability of San Jose’s case, you may recall, with Stanford’s Roger Noll saying it might have a shot, while NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra snorted in derision. I haven’t seen any comments yet from Noll (and it’s 6:30 am in California, I’m not gonna be the one to wake him up), but Calcaterra draws a pretty devastating conclusion after reading the verdict:

It’s a just full-fledged Heisman at San Jose, citing the three big Supreme Court cases giving MLB its antitrust exemption — most recently the Curt Flood case — and saying that San Jose doesn’t even get past the first threshold. MLB’s exemption from the antitrust laws, while not absolute, certainly covers franchise relocation, the court ruled, thus kicking this one to the curb as a matter of law.

San Jose can go to the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court has itself ruled that it will take Congress acting to change the law as it applies to Major League Baseball in order to have the exemption removed or modified enough to cover cases like this. So, sorry guys.

In short: If you’ve been holding out hope of a court ordering MLB to let the A’s move to San Jose, don’t hold your breath. The only real chance of a move is if A’s owner Lew Wolff decides to pay the San Francisco Giants‘ territorial ransom once the legal options are extinguished (not likely, considering that the Giants can and will ask for the moon) or that new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is more eager to lean on the Giants owners to cut a deal than his predecessor Bud Selig was (also not likely, if he wants to keep his job). We’ll find out after the Supreme Court acts, I guess.


8 comments on “Appeals court bounces San Jose antitrust case to Supreme Court, A’s aren’t moving anywhere anytime soon

  1. Hey Neil, tell Craig he can go to hell with his pro-Giants stance on this saga! In fact, anyone who feels it’s OK For a major American city to be banned from pursuing MLB can go to hell as well. It’s outrageous and downright childish to be putting down SJ for its efforts to land the A’s (“so sorry guys”?). But I digress: once SJ gets its act together with the land and financing Manfred will put the Giants in their rightful place. Remember: Santa Clara County a shared territory prior to 1992, all other two-team markets are shared and THE BEST INTEREST OF BASEBALL. I Tay be awhile, but in the end the A’s will find their way to San Jose.

  2. (Hmm, should “anyone who feels it’s OK For a major American city to be banned from pursuing MLB can go to hell” count as a personal attack? Should I have a comments policy on impersonal attacks? Adjudicating is *hard*.)

  3. Maybe your policy needs to be expanded to cover “multi-personal” attacks ;)

    In any case, I’m not aware of anybody being banned from pursuing MLB. Although I guess everybody is still banned from pursuing the Rays.

    It’s all pretty silly. Regardless of the long-term prospects of the anti-trust exemption, there’s no way that the Supreme Court or Congress are going to block a franchise-based business from assigning territorial rights. Too many $trillions invested in the franchise business model.

  4. If I was on the Alameda Board of Supervisors, I’d be looking at the current stadium and telling the world that, since it’s world-class, they don’t have to do anything; the A’s must stay. I doubt a relocation to Portland or Vancouver would gain a lot of traction.

    The MLB antitrust exemption is just stupid. Case in point, the A’s would perform far better financially in San Jose. In this case, the exemption from hell is preventing a team from moving into a far better situation. What sense does that make?

    And, to reiterate, I’m an SFG fan. Keeping the A’s out of SJ is plain stupid.

  5. As usual, A’z apologists haven’t the foggiest notion about the biz of MLB. The “game” runs on dollars, not sentiment. A’z sat on their hands and didn’t do the simple task of making sure (15-18 years ago when TelCo. Park was under construction) that SC county was open for them
    as an open territory.
    It’s pay for play for the adult world, Gi-ants have a mortgage to pay off now that the A’z don’t.

  6. MikeM: The A’s would generate more revenue in San Jose, but then, they’d generate more revenue in New York or Philadelphia as well. In fact, there are probably a dozen markets where they would generate more revenue than in Oakland.

    Wolff and Fisher have the exact same problem in those dozen markets that they do in San Jose: They don’t own the rights to them.

    We as fans need to understand that sports leagues consider all “open” markets not to be open. In fact, all franchise operations control where their franchises operate regardless of the type of business. You don’t get to open a McDonalds or Wendy’s just wherever you want, even if the proposed location has no fast food joints of any kind.