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Major League Baseball moves to dismiss the San Jose antitrust lawsuit

Aug 8, 2013, 8:23 AM EDT

San Jose postcard

Major League Baseball moved to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit filed against it by the city of San Jose over the relocation — or lack of relocation — by the Oakland A’s.  The Mercury-News has the full story. The short version, though, is that among the multiple defenses the suit raises, Major League Baseball has asserted that San Jose has no standing to sue.

This was the biggest weakness I and many others saw when the suit was filed. All plaintiffs to a lawsuit must be able to show that he or she has some personal legal interest that has been damaged by the defendant. It is not enough that the plaintiff has an interest of sorts or a prospective interest. It has to be a concrete personal stake in the outcome of the suit. As Major League Baseball argued in its filing yesterday, San Jose has no such interest:

“The alleged harms are too remote and speculative to support an antitrust claim. If [San Jose's claims were supported], it would lead to absurd results: every time a franchise contemplated relocation, MLB would be subjected to suits from any city that desires a team and from any city that does not want to lose a team … San Jose is a city. And, like many cities, it may want to host a Major League Club in a brand new revenue-producing stadium, and to entertain fans in its local businesses. San Jose is not, however, a Major League club, a potential purchaser of a Major League club, or the owner of a stadium that is available for lease to a Major League club.”

I’m normally not too impressed with lawyers’ “this would create absurd results” arguments, because often they don’t point to any actually possible absurd results. But really, if you read and believe San Jose’s lawsuit, any city could file such a suit. When the Rays talk speculatively about maybe one day having to leave St. Petersburg, there’s really nothing stopping, say, the city of Newark, New Jersey from saying “we’d love to have the Rays but we can’t because of MLB’s territorial rules and that prevents us from making all kinds of money on a franchise so please help us out, court.”

Sure, unlike that scenario there has been flirtation between the A’s and San Jose, but there is really nothing more legally binding between them than there is between the Rays and Newark. They have one thing: a land-purchase option that provides San Jose no guarantees of any kind beyond some very low payments to keep the option open. That money has been paid. They’re out nothing by virtue of Major League Baseball’s anti-competitive behavior. No obligations actually legally owed to them have been thwarted by Major League Baseball.

This would be different if the A’s were plaintiffs here and their interest in moving was being thwarted. Or if there was actually some investment (beyond a P.R. offensive by San Jose’s mayor) to get the A’s to San Jose which was undertaken with a reasonable expectation that the move could happen.  But we don’t have that here. We have no damages. San Jose has no standing.

I so want this lawsuit to be successful for selfish, end-driven reasons having to do with my disdain for MLB’s antitrust exemption and my desire to see teams move to follow the nation’s population patterns. But this isn’t the suit that’s gonna do it. At least as it is currently structured.

  1. buffal0sportsfan - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    Yeah buffalo doesn’t whine to much about the lack of a baseball team we were promised in the 90s by the Rich family. -sniffle- Not one bit.

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 8, 2013 at 6:06 PM

      *Kicks a rock*

  2. scotttheskeptic - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    I want this suit to progress, with San Jose issuing lots of subpoenas, all of which are upheld. Turn about, and all that…

  3. bravojawja - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    Man, MLB lawyers are just raking in the dough these last few weeks, aren’t they?

  4. mybrunoblog - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Nobody wants to go to Newark. In fact, one of its few redeeming qualities is that it has an airport so you can leave that place.

  5. waiverclaim - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    The 10th largest market in America only gets an A-ball team? Fuck off Giants, let the A’s move.

    • kopy - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      To be fair, the population of one city is a horrible way to judge a market. The A’s should move to San Jose, but not just because San Jose is the 10th largest city by pop. If that’s the way things worked, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Austin, and Forth Worth would all have pro sports teams in every league.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:25 AM

        “If that’s the way things worked, Dallas would have pro sports teams in every league.”

        Er… Rangers, Mavericks, Cowboys, Stars, even FC Dallas?

      • kopy - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:30 AM

        You’re quoting part of the whole sentence. I said ALL those cities would have teams in EVERY league. Meaning NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL would have 24 franchises in Texas instead of 8.

    • Marty - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      There’s a lot of fat people in San Jose, but that doesn’t need to be brought into this.

      • jwbiii - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:18 PM

        The American College of Sports Medicine’s recent study would suggest otherwise.

        http://www.americanfitnessindex.org/quickview.htm

        On the other hand, I lived in #11 Austin, there a lot of people in good shape, and a small number of morbidly obese people.

      • tustana - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:10 PM

        There’s a movie called “Marty” about a fat guy over 30 who lives with his mother and can’t get a date, but that doesn’t need to be brought into this either.

  6. waiverclaim - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    Yet another bullet point in the massive amount of ammunition there is to show Bud Selig as the most spineless, integrity-destroying, money grubbing commish in sports history.

    • prmallon5600 - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      As bad as Bud is, and believe me, he’s bad, no one can seriously say he’s any worse than David Stern, right?

  7. koufaxmitzvah - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    What’s more absurd than a former used car dealer placing himself at the pinnacle of truth and justice for Major League Baseball? And this is after having a large role in orchestrating the destruction of the 1994 baseball season that was set to see more than a few hallowed records be challenged if not shattered?

    Bud’s got a big head (my understatement of the day). It may happen every 100 years, but MLB needs a major league smack down.

    • waiverclaim - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:27 AM

      San Jose should get billions AND the A’s.

      • Marty - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:17 AM

        San Jose needs billions just to get through the decade.

  8. American of African Descent - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Craig, I’m disappointed in you. The difference between the A’s and San Jose, and the Rays and your Newark example is that the A’s have actually expressed an interest in San Jose, and San Jose has expressed an interest in the A’s, and the only thing prohibiting the move is MLB’s territorial rules. The slope just doesn’t slip as you and MLB fear.

    Second, of course there’s nothing legally binding between the A’s and San Jose. But to say San Jose has no damages is just silly. The damages are the potential future revenues that a stadium would bring. (Yes, Craig, if you go back to your first year torts and contracts classes, you’ll recall that you can include lost future profits in damages calculations.)

    Third, a damage analysis and a standing analysis are two very different things. Damages are an element of the anti-trust action while standing is a prudential doctrine. Come on, Craig, this is 1L stuff here!

    • Marty - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:25 AM

      So then, any city in America can spend their time and money courting a professional team then sue the league office when it doesn’t happen.

      Hell, they can sue Microsoft, Samsung and Apple for not opening a facility – just because the city feels they are losing out on “future revenue” if there were to build one.

      Future revenue from a stadium isn’t even an established result. Try again.

    • American of African Descent - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:36 AM

      No, dumb-ass. If you read my post, it specifically mentions mutual desire — i.e., team and city both want the move. Or, to use your example, City wants a Microsoft facility, Microsoft wants to move to City, but Apple is blocking the move. That’s the essence of an anti-trust suit.

      Please tell me that you don’t vote.

      • stex52 - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        I will submit this at the risk of your obvious preference for the quick insult.

        Don’t the A’s need to start this process for there to be much in the way of standing?

      • Marty - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:38 AM

        You must be very insecure to jump right into calling me dumbass. It must be a chip on your shoulder, brother.

      • Marty - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:45 AM

        Let’s further peruse this. You are arguing that any disgruntled professional team who thinks their home city doesn’t appreciate them can claim that they intend to move. And as long as they collude with any city council in America that thinks that is a good idea (ie, every single one), that city can sue if the league rejects.

        Since we’re slinging insults, here’s mine. Affirmative action is obvious with you and your attendance at whatever law school has granted you a spot.

      • Bob Loblaw - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:47 AM

        But wouldn’t the A’s then have to be on the lawsuit, along with the city of San Jose, against MLB? If the A’s didn’t join the suit, then what’s to stop any city, like Newark, saying “We talked to the Rays and they want to come here”? Now, if the A’s admit in court the same things that San Jose is saying, then I would agree with you. However, the A’s not being with the plaintiffs in this suit makes it a loser from the start.

      • Marty - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:55 AM

        I agree with Bob, the A’s are the only party who has a valid claim.

        San Jose can’t even prove there is an economic consequence to not having a team. Using most evidence on stadium economics, they are more likely to lose money.

        I’m going to apologize to “American of African Descent”. It is obvious that you are a young pup in school holding the ego of the man you want to be, not the man you are. We’ve all been there.

      • American of African Descent - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        Collude is such a loaded word. But, yes, my argument is that as long as a team wants to move, and the city wants to accept them and (big and) another team is preventing the move for economic reasons, that’s a prima facie case. Whether the facts support the claim (i.e., what do the documents show, what do the witnesses say) will determine if the claim is ultimately successful.

        Just because the A’s are not in on the suit (and there are lots of good business reasons that the A’s may want San Jose to carry the water — would you want to sue your own league?), does not mean San Jose’s suit isn’t valid.

        And Marty, you started it with your smug “try again” comment. I escalated, and will continue to escalate. If you really want to sling ‘em, did affirmative action get me to the top of my class and a highly successful practice? Because I’ll put my (earned) credentials up against yours any day. You’re obviously an embittered and jealous individual who has a hard time realizing he’s been beat. Lifetime middle managers like you are a dime a dozen.

      • Marty - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:49 PM

        Token, you are helping my charge of insecurity by embellishing your credentials for an anonymous person on the internet.

      • American of African Descent - Aug 8, 2013 at 3:08 PM

        Awwww . . . Does it bother little Marty that he couldn’t refute an argument presented by a minority? Does it make you feel a little more inferior that this affirmative-action token has a better grasp than you?

        Let me taste your tears, Marty. They taste so sweet!

      • Marty - Aug 8, 2013 at 3:27 PM

        This exchange doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Most legal analysts agree with me, if that is what you meant by residing in the minority. Additionally, SJ can not establish they would see more revenue when prevailing research predicts they will lose. We all think they have no standing let alone a case. You think otherwise, and consider anyone who disagrees and asshole.

        And, You missed my point. When I was in grad school I had the ego of a staff scientist. Now that I am a staff scientist I am humbled by people with a fraction of my credentials. No cause for further discussion. You are either an ambitious JD student who thinks he’s the shit, or a professional who never grew up.

      • American of African Descent - Aug 8, 2013 at 4:22 PM

        Most of the so-called legal analysts thought that the Supreme Court would overturn Obamacare. There’s a reason people work as “analysts” and not practicing lawyers.

        Disagreement with me does not make you an asshole. What makes you an asshole — or more likely a middle manager or other quasi-professional who never lived up to his full potential — is your flip statement “try again,” assuming that everyone who disagrees with you is a puissant.

      • Marty - Aug 8, 2013 at 4:49 PM

        But you are a puissant, “Token”.

      • American of African Descent - Aug 8, 2013 at 5:22 PM

        And you are an asshole, Marty.

    • anxovies - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:22 PM

      Remember that this is in federal court where, the 7th Amendment notwithstanding, most cases are decided by a judge on summary judgment and hardly anything gets to a jury. Also, you are confusing damages with the standing to claim them. Although San Jose might have future profits if the As moved there, the mere fact that they have indicated a desire to do so and the fact that San Jose has some land reserved if they do is pretty tenuous and speculative. I would have a large salary if I were hired as the CEO of Microsoft but until they offer me the job it is just speculation. A first year law student could tell you that. Craig is probably right in his assessment.

  9. waiverclaim - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Perfect solution: A’s build a new stadium on the waterfront of Oakland, directly facing the Giants park, the Rays move to San Jose, and the Marlins move to Brooklyn. People in Florida just don’t care about baseball.

    • natslady - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Well, Old Gator does, and he’s probably got friends. But your other two points–yeah, go for it.

    • daveitsgood - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      Well, logistically it wouldn’t work because to face ATT, the park would be facing west and at sundown, hitters would be blinded by the sun. From a geographic perspective, directly across from ATT is the shipping yards which is still in use and the Alameda Naval base, which means that if they built a park there, Mythbusters wouldn’t be able to test out the large scale myths anymore.

  10. natslady - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    Bottom line, merits of the lawsuit whatever. MLB is blocking a city that WANTS a team, that will be profitable for a team, in order to keep a good, contending team in a lousy stadium. What is wrong with this picture?

  11. coloradogolfcoupons - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    Who was it from the A’s that GAVE THE SAN JOSE TERRITORY AWAY FOR FREE TO BEGIN WITH? Shouldn’t THAT person be the one that San Jose sues lol?

    This crap is getting old. The AntiTrust exemption needs to go. Free Market should insure that players should not have to stand ankle deep in shit to go play MLB. Why the Rays are stuck for a zillion years in a stadium NOBODY will go to is beyond me. They (The Rays) should just move to San Jose, let the Tampa city fathers sue, and stall the lawsuit for 20 years, like the owner of the Vikings (or maybe the Browns) did…although he recently lost the 21 year old lawsuit, in the meantime he amassed a fortune big enough to buy a NFL team. Paying the 51Million is damages is chicken feed to what he now makes. So just pack up the bats and move, for crying out loud. It’s supposedly a free country, so move, fight the suit, and in 20 years pay them their 27-year lease rent. Buy then it won’t be worth much, and the money from playing in fron of 45,000 every night instead of 4,500 every night will pay for the damages. Get ‘er done

    • byjiminy - Aug 8, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      The Giants can stop the Rays moving there, too. They can stifle any unwanted competition, because for some reason they’re exempted from antitrust laws.

      Even if you accept their slippery slope argument, that if San Jose can object, any city could, so what? Why can’t they? They’re all being harmed. No one is allowed to bid on a team, or relocate a team, without the league’s okay, allowing them to jack up the price enormously, extorting free stadiums, all of that. Yes, Newark is being harmed. If they want to entice a team to move there, it should be between them and the team. They shouldn’t have to pay off some pimp.

  12. dparker713 - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    While I don’t think San Jose has standing to sue for the lack of an actual move without the A’s joining, I do think they could easily sustain an action in quantum meruit. I’m sure the city has devoted far more resources than are covered by the option price. Such actions benefited MLB and yet MLB has refused to even vote on the viability of the move.

    Mostly, the San Jose lawyers should be throwing anything at the wall to survive until discovery, then go for all of MLB’s financial records and attack the anti-trust exemption directly – the two things of which MLB is most afraid to lose.

    • APBA Guy - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      Actually, there are hints that this is a major part of the City of SJ strategy. In the website devoted to the A’s attempt to find a new ball park:

      http://newballpark.org

      There is discussion in the comments section of today’s post about strategy. The upshot for us non-lawyers is that the City is spending money on a number of non-evident actions related to a new A’s ballpark (such as defending suits by NIMBY types opposed to the proposed site), and interestingly that the business climate and practices of MLB are now radically different from those that existed when the anti-trust exemption was granted originally.

      Also, there seem to exist alternate approaches to advance the case even if the judge grants the MLB motion.

      • jkcalhoun - Aug 8, 2013 at 5:39 PM

        How are San Jose’s expenditures different from those of a municipality trying to attract interest in, say, the relocation of a manufacturing facility?

  13. blabidibla - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    This whole thing was designed to bring publicity to the cause. MLB has been stalling for years and getting away with it in the press. The lawsuit brought a few more journalists into the discussion. It hasn’t, however, pressured MLB into solving the issue.

  14. tfilarski - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Nashville would be an awesome place for a MLB team!

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:37 PM

      The idea of eating Hot Chicken while watching a ballgame is almost too wonderful to imagine. I’ll support Nashville if part of the plan is to set up a Prince’s franchise in the stadium.

  15. mikeevergreen - Aug 8, 2013 at 6:42 PM

    Tell me again: Why does this town want to turn the Chokeland Pathetics into the San jose Slackers?

  16. marcinhouston - Aug 9, 2013 at 2:43 AM

    “You can’t have a team. San Francisco owns your territory. We aren’t a trust, we are 30 independent team, but we are acting as on this decision.” I believe that is their standing.

  17. marcinhouston - Aug 9, 2013 at 2:46 AM

    If San Jose doesn’t have standing to sue because although specifically prohibited from having a team, they might not get one if allowed, isn’t that the same thing as signing that a minority in Alabama who is not allowed to vote has no standing, because if they were allowed to vote, they still might not make it to the polls or their vote might not be the deciding factor?

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