On Thursday, San Jose filed claims in Santa Cruz County Superior Court against MLB and its commissioner, Bud Selig, over alleged contractual interference. It also filed an appeal notice with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco over a trial court's denial of antitrust and unfair competition claims.
The A's have been attempting for years to relocate to San Jose, where the San Francisco Giants control territorial rights. In 2009, Selig formed a blue-ribbon panel to look into the future of the A’s, who play at O.Co Coliseum and annually have one of the smallest attendance figures in MLB.
“The City is moving forward with its claims that MLB and Commissioner Selig are preventing relocation of the A’s to San José under an Option Agreement," attorney Philip Gregory, counsel for San Jose, said in a statement Thursday. "As Judge [Ronald W.] Whyte held, ‘[T]he A’s are unable to exercise the option due to MLB’s delay in conducting the vote to approve or deny relocation. ... MLB [was] aware of the Option Contract and has engaged in acts ... indicating an intent to frustrate the contract.’”
In June, San Jose sued MLB in federal court for antitrust violations and interference
with the city’s option agreement with the A’s, but Whyte ruled that MLB was exempt from federal and state antitrust laws. MLB has had a federal antitrust exemption since a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
“Judge Whyte determined our antitrust claims fall under the antitrust exemption for the business of baseball,” Joseph Cotchett of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy said in the statement. “We look forward to testing the continuing validity of this exemption with the Court of Appeals. I find it hard to believe Major League Baseball is not subject to the same antitrust rules that apply to all other sports.”
The complaint also alleges that Selig sent A's managing partner Lew Wolff a secret letter June 17 denying the team's request to move to San Jose.
"The city has not seen this purportedly secret denial and MLB refuses to release the contents of the letter to the city or the public," Gregory said.
Despite the alleged denial of the move request, the A's extended the option agreement with San Jose through Nov. 8, 2014, at a cost of $25,000.