Jun 18, 2013, 4:32 PM EST
So I’ve read over the lawsuit filed by San Jose against Major League Baseball. Initial reaction: it’s more full of crap than Bob Melvin’s office was on Sunday afternoon.
The essence of the suit: Major League Baseball is a monopoly. It should be an unlawful monopoly. This would-be unlawful monopoly is preventing the Athletics from moving to San Jose and that has caused San Jose all manner of financial harm.
Which, yes, sounds reasonable. Major League Baseball is anti-competitive and does have a monopoly that should go the way of the dodo and vaudeville for the simple reason that it serves no purpose as noble and grand as either the dodo or vaudeville did. But the suit is not anything that should pass legal muster here, and I believe it will go down in flames.
As I said in the earlier post, courts do not entertain lawsuits from parties without standing to sue and the city of San Jose hasn’t asserted anything in this complaint that persuades me that they have standing. Or that they have been damaged in any way that a court will consider worthy of redress. Broadly speaking, they have claimed that (a) they have a contract with the owners of the Oakland A’s with which Major League Baseball’s actions have interfered; and (b) that the city has incurred or will incur — note the “will” — financial damages as a result of the A’s not moving to San Jose. Let’s break those down:
The tortious interference with a contract claim: The contract claim is baed on an option agreement entered into in 2011 between the A’s owners and San Jose for the purchase of some land on which a ballpark would be built. The A’s paid San Jose $50,000 for the option. It expires this fall. If they want to keep the option open for another year it’s another $25,000. If the A’s owners were to buy the land, they can do it for between $6 million and $7 million. Nothing in the option agreement, however, promises that the A’s will actually move. It doesn’t even promise that they’ll buy the land. Just that they have the option to do so.
San Jose, however, seems to be attempting to bootstrap this option into a promise that the A’s would actually move there and that MLB’s rules preventing the A’s from moving have thus interfered with that expectation. That’s a bridge too far. A bridge longer than the Dumbarton, actually. The only guarantee San Jose gets out of that contract is $50-75K. The only thing it’s giving up is the right to sell that land for the period of the option. Major League Baseball has not stopped the A’s from paying their $50-75K.
San Jose’s insistence that more has been lost here is based on an assertion that the A’s have indicated a willingness to move to San Jose. Well, yes, they have. But they haven’t done anything to act on it yet because they know they can’t. At the minimum, I would think a court would need to have evidence that the A’s actually took a concrete step to pay San Jose $7 million for that land, to actually move to San Jose only to have had Major League Baseball stop that from happening. There is no suggestion, however, that any such evidence exists.
The financial damages: It’s all future tense. San Jose would have gotten increased tax revenue, would have gotten good paying stadium construction jobs, would have seen economic development and would have had a more healthy municipal budget had the A’s moved. Those are all speculative, prospective damages* not actual damages, and courts are not in the business of providing redress for speculative, prospective damages. Tomorrow Lew Wolff could say “you know what? I always wanted to move the A’s to Bakersfield. We’re moving to Bakersfield.” If he did that, San Jose would have no recourse. So they certainly have no recourse against Major League Baseball for preventing a speculative A’s-to-San Jose move.
*Probably also worth noting that the complaint spends a lot of time talking about all the economic benefits of ballpark development. These benefits have been largely debunked. I sorta hope this suit goes far, however, so that MLB would find itself in the odd position of having to explain how such damages are illusory, contrary to their tack for the past 25 years or so.
I think Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption is abhorrent. I wish it were gone and think, in the right lawsuit, it could be defeated. If the A’s had filed this suit, for example, claiming that MLB is preventing them from moving and that MLB’s insistence that they stay in Oakland has caused them financial damages, I think it would have a puncher’s chance. And I’d be shaking my pompoms, cheering it on. But they didn’t file it. San Jose did. And San Jose has no legal rights that seem remotely impinged upon here.
Which, it should be worth noting, may be the idea. It’s quite possible that this suit is more a political document than a legal one, with San Jose’s mayor trying to focus attention on the languishing A’s-to-San Jose thing and to get public opinion on the side of the A’s and the city. Maybe this will do that, maybe it won’t. I’d have to know the political dynamics of the Bay Area better than I do to have an idea.
But I do think that for it to have any practical use in creating leverage it has to at least present a legal threat, and this doesn’t do that. Indeed, I think Major League Baseball is way more worried about losing its antitrust exemption than any bad PR that can come out of Oakland, so they’re likely to fight this suit until it’s dead.
Which should be quickly. Because the suit is no better than the stuff bubbling up through the Oakland Coliseum’s pipes and should be thrown out.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:30 PM EST
The Padres continue to overhaul their lineup while the A’s continue to unload.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:52 PM EST
The trade is about to be official, finally.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:46 PM EST
Young, 29, batted .302 with seven home runs and .779 OPS (120 OPS+) over 255 plate appearances this past season.
Dec 18, 2014, 7:50 PM EST
Lowe began his career with Seattle and had his best season with the club in 2009.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:41 PM EST
Is this the beginning of the end for the Tampa Bay Rays?
Dec 18, 2014, 6:07 PM EST
Johnson missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late April.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Does Ichiro really have one more year left in him?
Dec 18, 2014, 5:40 PM EST
Veteran catching depth.
Dec 18, 2014, 5:17 PM EST
Giavotella is a career .315 hitter with an .835 OPS and as many walks as strikeouts in nearly 2,000 plate appearances at Triple-A.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:47 PM EST
He’s probably not the one who knocks. Indeed, this crew seemed so amateurish he probably called first to make sure it was a good time for everyone.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:17 PM EST
It started with an argument over candy.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:34 PM EST
Between Cuba and North Korea, it’s been a big couple of days for communism. Let’s see what communists thought about baseball once upon a time.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:18 PM EST
Medlen missed all of this year recovering from his second Tommy John elbow surgery.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
What a difference a day makes.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:38 PM EST
Rollins is not tied to Kemp, at least not entirely.
Dec 18, 2014, 1:06 PM EST
Baseball card collecting in the post-bicycle spokes, pre-crash world of the 1980s.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:17 PM EST
And the Padres “continue to consult medical experts.”
Dec 18, 2014, 11:39 AM EST
Let’s pump the brakes a bit on the imminent MLB takeover of Cuba.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:47 AM EST
Quotes from manager Buck Showalter.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
The city council will vote on the deal allowing the team to look for a new stadium site.
- Report: Padres acquire catcher Derek Norris from Athletics 15
- The Matt Kemp trade is expected to go down as planned 3
- St. Petersburg City Council votes down deal to allow Rays to look for new stadium site 75
- What will the future of Cuban players in MLB look like? 25
- Royals sign Edinson Volquez for two years, $20 million 29
- Rays, Padres, Nationals agree to 11-player trade 97
- Sergio Romo re-signs with the Giants for $15 million 15
- So, apparently we’re sweating the Matt Kemp physical now 46
- Baseball’s highest-ranking Hispanic woman employee sues for discrimination (163)
- The United States will seek to normalize relations with Cuba (144)
- Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Rangers, and Astros interested in Phillies’ Cole Hamels (111)
- Rays, Padres, Nationals agree to 11-player trade (97)
- Chase Headley signs a four-year deal with the Yankees worth at least $52 million. (95)