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Judge throws out San Jose antitrust claims vs. MLB

October 11, 2013|By Bill Shaikin
  • Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig in 2011.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig in 2011. (Bebeto Matthews / Associated…)

A federal judge reluctantly upheld Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption Friday, throwing out almost all of a lawsuit the city of San Jose filed against the league.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte also affirmed MLB's right to determine where its teams play.

However, Whyte left intact one claim that San Jose might have been harmed because of the league's failure to decide whether the Oakland Athletics can move there.

That could open the door to testimony from Commissioner Bud Selig and the release of internal league documents to show why MLB has not made a decision in the 4-1/2 years since Selig appointed a committee to evaluate the A's proposed move to San Jose.

In 2010, MLB asked the city of San Jose to postpone a public vote on an A's ballpark. In 2011, the city granted the A's a two-year option to buy land for the new ballpark.

"By asking the City to delay on a public vote on the stadium, the City was justified in assuming that MLB would make a decision within a reasonable time which it has not," Whyte wrote in his ruling. "Regardless of whether MLB ultimately approves or denies the relocation request—and the court has concluded that it is within MLB’s authority to decide either way ... the court cannot say at this stage that the City has incurred no damages owing to MLB’s frustration of the contract."

Whyte said baseball's antitrust exemption, which dates to 1922, "makes little sense" today but said he was bound to uphold Supreme Court precedent.

The city of San Jose is expected to appeal the dismissal of the antitrust elements of its suit.

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