MLB and Bud Selig sued by City of San Jose over stalled A’s stadium deal (Updated)

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

The City of San Jose filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball on Tuesday, appealing to the courts to clear the way for the proposed Oakland Athletics ballpark in San Jose.

The lawsuit comes after years of stalling on what would be called Cisco Field and challenges MLB's ruling that the San Francisco Giants have territorial rights to San Jose.

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San Jose has momentum to grab, since Oakland's O.Co Coliseum made headlines nationwide for a raw sewage leak that made both the home and visitor clubhouses unusable on Sunday. The A's and visiting Seattle Mariners had to share the Oakland Raiders locker room instead. After the game, A's pitcher A.J. Griffin said: "Make sure everybody finds out about this sewage thing. We need to get a new stadium."

San Jose was listening and seized the opportunity to ratchet up its clash with Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig, who was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, part of the lawsuit says:

"This action arises from the blatant conspiracy by Major League Baseball to prevent the Athletics Baseball Club from moving to San Jose. This action challenges - and seeks to remedy - Defendants' violation of state laws and use of the illegal cartel that results from these agreements to eliminate competition in the playing of games in the San Francisco Bay Area."

The lawsuit comes after a closed-door vote by the San Jose city council on Tuesday. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is expected to speak publicly Tuesday afternoon about the suit. He's tried to speak with Bud Selig directly in the past, according to reports, but Selig has turned down Reed's invitations. San Jose has been working since 2009 on a plan that would build a new stadium in its downtown, near the arena where the San Jose Sharks play.

One of the main issues blocking the move is the Giants' claim to territory rights in San Jose — which is where the Single-A San Jose Giants play. That could be overturned with a vote by MLB owners, but Selig has never called for such a vote. Thus, why San Jose is now making this play.

More from the San Jose Mercury News:

San Jose officials said that with the A's move to San Jose seemingly stuck in quicksand, and with Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig repeatedly rebuffing Mayor Chuck Reed's efforts to move it along, they had little to lose. They noted other examples in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Seattle where cities eventually got teams after suing baseball.

The suit is a direct challenge to Major League Baseball's unique 91-year-old exemption to federal antitrust laws. It originated with a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court decision that baseball is not interstate commerce subject to federal antitrust regulation. The court twice upheld the decision in 1953 and 1972. Many legal scholars have argued it is inconsistent with law applied to other sports leagues and vulnerable to challenge.

"Whereas baseball may have started as a local affair," the lawsuit said, "modern baseball is squarely within the realm of interstate commerce. MLB Clubs ply their wares nationwide, games are broadcast throughout the country on satellite TV and radio, as well as cable channels, and MLB Clubs have fan bases that span from coast to coast."

Back in Oakland, despite what's universally considered one of the worst stadiums in baseball, the A's have the fifth-highest attendance jump in the league this season (a fact noted by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs). You can attribute that to the Athletics' 42-20 record and not to people wanting to smell raw sewage.

UPDATE: MLB has released a statement in response to the lawsuit. Here's what Rob Manfred, executive vice president for economics & league affairs, said:

“In considering the issues related to the Oakland Athletics, Major League Baseball has acted in the best interests of our fans, our communities and the league. The lawsuit is an unfounded attack on the fundamental structures of a professional sports league. It is regrettable that the city has resorted to litigation that has no basis in law or in fact.”

Elsewhere, Yahoo! Sports Jeff Passan writes the lawsuit provides for some hope for the A's.

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