Judge Rejects San Jose's Antitrust Claim Against MLB

Both sides claimed victory after a federal judge issued a decision on a motion by Major League Baseball to dismiss a lawsuit by the city of San Jose that accuses the league of unlawfully preventing the Oakland A's from moving to San Jose

A federal judge made his first ruling in the antitrust case filed by the city of San Jose against Major League Baseball concerning the long-proposed move of the Oakland Athletics to the South Bay.

Both sides claimed victory following the Friday morning ruling by U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte.

Major League Baseball said its pleased "the Court dismissed the heart of San Jose's action," and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said he is pleased "the judge has allowed our case to move forward."

U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte dismissed San Jose's antitrust claims against Major League Baseball, but has allowed the city to pursue allegations of contract interference in connection with the Oakland Athletics' stalled relocation plans.

The suit, which was filed in June, accuses MLB of conspiring again the A's proposal to move to San Jose, which baseball defines as territory of the San Francisco Giants.
In the ruling, Judge Whyte allowed the city to pursue tort interference claims MLB interfered in its contract with the A's, which involves an option to purchase land for a new ballpark downtown.

Read the Ruling (pdf)

"Although MLB's frustration of the option agreement is not an antitrust violation, MLB is nonetheless aware of the Option Contract and has engaged in acts ... indicating an intent to frustrate the contract," Whyte wrote.

MLB lawyer John Keker told the Mercury News that 99 percent of the case is now gone. But Philip Gregory, who represents San Jose, told the paper he considered the ruling "excellent."

"The judge has upheld our tort claims against Major League Baseball. Clearly, he wants the case to go forward. The A's may have lost last night, but the A's and the city of San Jose won today," Gregory said.

San Jose has been trying to bring the A's south for years.

A's owner Lew Wolff and city leaders initially tried to get baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s approval, but after years of waiting, they moved forward with the lawsuit. 

Coincidentally, the A’s lost Game 5 in Oakland Thursday night in the ALDS playoff series against the Detroit Tigers.

MORE: Verbatim reaction from officials below:

Major League Baseball issued the following statement regarding judge’s ruling:

“Major League Baseball is pleased that the Court dismissed the heart of San Jose's action and confirmed that MLB has the legal right to make decisions about the relocation of its member Clubs. The Court dismissed all of San Jose's state and federal law claims challenging that right. We are confident that the remaining state law claims, which assert that San Jose's costs associated with the option agreement for the sale of real estate were increased by the timing of MLB's decision-making process, will be decided in MLB's favor, and that San Jose has not suffered any compensable injury."

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed statement regarding U.S. District Judge Ronald White’s ruling in the City of San Jose’s lawsuit against Major League Baseball:

I am pleased that the judge has allowed our case to move forward. Major League Baseball’s unfair and anti-competitive actions are costing San Jose residents millions of dollars in annual tax revenues that could go towards paying for more police officers, firefighters, libraries, road repairs and other critical services. San Jose filed this lawsuit after waiting patiently for more than four years for a decision from Commissioner Selig. The court’s decision this brings us one step closer to paving the way for San Jose to host a major league ballclub.

San Jose Councilmember Sam Liccardo offers this comment on today’s decision by the U.S. District Court in San Jose:

“Today’s decision is the best of both worlds. I’m pleased we are moving forward on contract interference. And we expect to press the anti trust issues with a higher court and I anticipate MLB will have to come forward to defend its anti-competitive behavior.”

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan released the following statement regarding the ruling:

“Instead of lawsuits, we’re focused on what Oakland--and only Oakland--has to offer Major League Baseball and the A’s: two viable, exciting sites for a new ballpark, with site control and investors ready to make it happen whenever the League and the team make their choice.”

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