San Jose Sues MLB Over A's Move

Lew Wolff said he is not in favor of legal action to solve business issues

The City of San Jose has filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball Tuesday regarding the Oakland A's move to San Jose.

San Jose claims MLB is unjustly standing in the way of the A's move, which owner Lew Wolff has been attempting to do since 2004.

The lawsuit names MLB Commissioner Bud Selig specifically.

According to the lawsuit, MLB has stalled any progress in getting the MLB owners to vote on whether the A's can move to San Jose. Click to view lawsuit (PDF).

San Jose has been in the mix as a possible location for the team since at least 2009. The city has a stadium site, a sponsor and artist renderings of the field (photos to the right).

But any potential move by the A's to San Jose would need MLB approval. That's because the San Francisco Giants claim they have the exclusive rights to Santa Clara County under the MLB Constitution.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and city leaders held a news conference to announce the suit Tuesday.

VIDEO: Fans React to San Jose Suing MLB to Move A's

City Councilman Sam Liccardo noted a recent incident at coliseum that left players without the use of the locker room showers as proof the team needs a new stadium.

"Nothing says do you know the way to San Jose like backed up sewage in locker rooms," Liccardo said. On Sunday, backed up pipes from a big crowd had raw sewage spewing into the clubhouse. Liccardo said San Jose can do better. "Hopefully, MLB still knows that tune."

Reed noted that the city has made an "exhaustive" four-year effort to work with Major League Baseball to resolve any concerns about our city’s capacity to host a major league ballclub. 

“During that time, it has become abundantly clear that Major League Baseball prefers to use territorial restrictions as an excuse to restrict commerce and prevent the Athletics from relocating to San Jose. This restriction is costing San Jose residents millions of dollars in new annual tax revenues that could go towards funding more police officers, firefighters, libraries, gang prevention efforts, road repairs and other critical city services," Reed said.

The lawsuit claims it comes after "the blatant conspiracy by Major League Baseball (“MLB”) to prevent the Athletics Baseball Club from moving to San Jose. For years, MLB has unlawfully conspired to control the location and relocation of major league men’s professional baseball clubs under the guise of an “antitrust exemption” applied to the business of baseball."

"I have no details," A's owner Lew Wolff told NBC Bay Area. "However, I am not in favor of legal action or legal threats to solve business issues."

“This is an economic rape and pillage. It’s all about greed. This is not only a legal case, this is a moral outrage," Joe Cotchett, the attorney representing San Jose, told NBC Bay Area. “[It's] the tenth largest city in the nation… being subjected to a cold shoulder by Bud Selig.”

Regarding fan support in Oakland and the possibility of taking the team away from there, Cotchett said, “The fans of the A’s are going to continue to be the fans of the A’s, and they’re going to drive a few more miles. But you know what they’re going to have? They’re going to have a beautiful new stadium. It’s going to be competitive. They can go to the bathrooms without a sewer problem, and they can eat some good food and they will be delighted with a brand new stadium.”

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she is still hoping the A's will stay in Oakland. 

"Instead of lawsuits, Oakland is focused on building a new stadium for the A’s here in their hometown. We’ve offered two sites: Howard Terminal is a beautiful waterfront location facing the Bay, and Coliseum City is one of the great development projects of our time. Both would make fantastic sites for a new stadium," Quan said.

San Jose hired high-powered lawyer Joe Cotchett to represent San Jose.

The San Francisco law firm of Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy explained the suit this way:

The City of San Jose, individually and as successor agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Jose, and the San Jose Diridon Development Authority, sued Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball Commissioner Huber “Bud” Selig. The Complaint alleges that Major League Baseball interfered with San Jose’s prospective economic advantage and conspired to prevent the Athletics Baseball Club from relocating to San Jose, California, in violation of Federal and California antitrust laws.

The firm has handled some of the largest antitrust cases in the nation and represented the NFL in similar litigation.

In order to override the Giants' territorial claim, Wolff would have to convince at least 75 percent of MLB team owners and Selig to favor moving the A's to San Jose. So far, the owners have not even called for a vote on the issue.

For now, the A's continue to play in the aging Coliseum in Oakland.

San Jose officials cited an independent economic analysis report that showed the ballpark would generate the following benefits:

  •   $5 million per year in new tax revenues to the City and other local governments
  •   $130 million per year in total net new economic output
  •   Nearly 1000 new full and part-time jobs.

 Major League Baseball representatives said the league will have no comment on the suit.

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