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San Jose sues MLB, seeking to have Athletics move there

City files an antitrust lawsuit, trying to gain leverage for a settlement that would allow the team to move there from Oakland.

June 18, 2013|Staff and wire reports
  • Commissioner Bud Selig answers a question during a news conference at Major League Baseball headquarters in May.
Commissioner Bud Selig answers a question during a news conference at Major… (Richard Drew / Associated…)

For the city of San Jose, four years of waiting had been long enough. The city filed an antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball on Tuesday, not necessarily to win in court but to gain leverage for a settlement in which the Oakland Athletics could move to San Jose.

"All we're looking for is for the A's to come to downtown San Jose," said Joe Cotchett, the attorney representing San Jose.

The suit laid bare the hostility between the city of San Jose and the San Francisco Giants, the team that has insisted it would neither surrender nor sell its right to keep the A's out of San Jose. The suit also triggered an angry response from MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred.

"The lawsuit is an unfounded attack on the fundamental structures of a professional sports league," Manfred said in a statement. "It is regrettable that the city has resorted to litigation that has no basis in law or in fact."

Courts generally have upheld the rights of sports leagues to control where their teams play. Baseball enjoys another layer of legal protection, thanks to a federal antitrust exemption that dates to 1922.

Daniel Lazaroff, who teaches sports law at Loyola Law School, said the right to control franchise relocation "would be right in the wheelhouse of the exemption." Successful challenges to that exemption, he said, have whittled league restrictions against players moving from one team to another.

By keeping the A's out of San Jose, according to the suit, MLB has cost the city of San Jose future billions in job creation and economic impact over the life of the proposed new ballpark.

"We're going to challenge the exemption," Cotchett said. "I believe we're going to win."

The A's are not one of the parties suing MLB.

"I am not in favor of legal action or legal threats to solve business issues," said Lew Wolff, managing partner of the A's.

In 2009, Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a task force to evaluate the A's proposed move to San Jose and consider any options to remain in Oakland or nearby. Selig has not announced a decision —- or even a timetable for one — and Cotchett said San Jose has decided inaction means no.

"MLB, without even cursory consideration of the desirability of moving the Oakland Athletics to San Jose, California, has already determined it will not consider the relocation," according to the suit.

The suit charges MLB with a "blatant conspiracy" to keep the A's out of San Jose.

Said San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo: "The San Francisco Giants' lawyers, lobbyists, and billionaire owners are afraid of competition, and Major League Baseball protects them."

The Giants had no comment.

— Bill Shaikin

Etc.

Kevin Youkilis needs back surgery and Mark Teixeira returned to the 15-day disabled list because of an aching right wrist, the latest injury setbacks for the depleted New York Yankees.

Youkilis will sit out at least 10 to 12 weeks after he has the procedure in California on Thursday. He had gone back on the DL on Friday.

Teixeira sat out the first 53 games of the season because of a wrist injury. He and Youkilis returned from their previous DL stints May 31.

Right-hander Roy Oswalt will make his first start of the season for the Colorado Rockies on Thursday at Washington.

Manager Walt Weiss confirmed the move. He said he does not expect to use a six-man rotation.

The 35-year-old Oswalt hasn't pitched in the majors since Oct. 2, when he was with the Texas Rangers.

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