In the battle over a home for the Oakland A’s, the city of San Jose failed in its effort to force Major League Baseball to allow the A’s to move the team to a ballpark in downtown San Jose.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected San Jose’s challenge of the league’s 92-year old exemption from antitrust law Thursday and upheld a lower court decision.
“Like Casey,” wrote Judge Alex Kozinski, “San Jose has struck out here.’
Faced with falling attendance and revenue in Oakland, the A’s owners wanted to move the team to the wealthier venue in Silicon Valley. But MLB’s constitution requires each of the league’s 30 clubs to play home games within a designated territory. For the A’s that is Alameda and ContraCostaCounties. A move the San Jose would put them smack into the San Francisco Giants’ turf and relocating into another franchise’s territory is prohibited, according to Kozinski.
The A’s went ahead with a plan to develop a San Jose stadium when MBL studied the issue, but the league had not approved the move the A’s were unable to build on a site set for the stadium.
San Jose sued believing that MLB’s dithering was an attempt to block relocation. The lawsuit alleged that the Giants’ monopoly violated state and federal antitrust law.
“Limitations on franchise relocations are designed to ensure access to baseball games for a broad range of markets and to safeguard the profitability – and thus viability—of each ball club,” Kozinski wrote. “Interfering with franchise relocation rules therefore indisputably interferes with the public exhibition of professional baseball,” he said.
“San Jose’s claims under the Sherman and Clayton Acts must accordingly be dismissed,” he ultimately concluded.
Only Congress and the Supreme Court can determine the fate of baseball’s “singular and historic exemption from the antitrust laws,” he said.
Kozinski was joined by Judges Barry Silverman and Richard Clifton.
Case: City of San Jose v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, No. 14-15139