Major League Baseball won’t let the Oakland A’s relocate to San Jose because territory rights in Santa Clara County belong to the San Francisco Giants. It’s a rule that exists only because MLB operates the only true monopoly in the country, with an antitrust exemption that dates back to when the argument could be made against baseball qualifying as interstate commerce. Of course, that sounds ridiculous today.
No other league shares this exemption, but baseball gets down a bit differently. That’s why the league and city of San Jose are in a legal shouting match – San Jose City Council filed an antitrust lawsuit against MLB in June, while MLB lawyers fired back saying it is exempt from antitrust regulation.
What needs to happen with this is for Commissioner Bud Selig to call for a vote by the league’s owners, on whether the A’s can relocate from that nightmare at Oakland Coliseum, to a brand new spot in San Jose.
The fact that Selig hasn’t called for such a vote leaves the door open for conspiracy theories on both sides. San Jose is accusing the league of conspiring to keep a major league team out of the city (the Giants’ Single-A affiliate already plays there). For the A’s, they’re stuck in a toilet bowl of a stadium, the last one shared with an NFL team, without a chance to compete with the Giants in attendance until further notice.
The problem is, the A’s don’t just need a new stadium for the fancy box seats. The Coliseum has been dealing with sewer problems, with the latest incident happening just two weeks ago.
Maintenance workers had to clean up a sewage backup in the A's dugout during the seventh inning of their 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, as players found vantage points to watch the game away from the mess.
The backup, coming from the bathroom adjacent to the home dugout, is the latest black eye for the 45-year-old Coliseum. In June, the much-maligned ballpark made national news when a massive sewage backup spilled into both clubhouses, the umpires' room and the managers' offices, as well as all the bathrooms on the clubhouse level.
The common theme here is that the league doesn’t want to step on the Giants toes, or mess with their market.
Interesting enough, the only reason San Francisco has those territory rights is because of a holdover from an entirely different relocation proposal by the Giants in 1990, when then-owner Bob Lurie considered moving the franchise to San Jose. The A’s actually had the territorial rights originally, but transferred them over to the Giants to make this thing happen.
As we all know, the Giants never moved and the city of San Jose is claiming the arrangement should have expired when the Giants decided to stay in San Francisco.
Maury Brown, a veteran baseball analyst and founder of a network of sports business websites, including bizofbaseball.com, had this to say to the Los Angeles Times:
"Major League Baseball understands that if they gamble and take this case the distance, the courts could slap down their advantage," Brown said. "I don't think they want to go there."
U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte is expected to hear the case in October, and San Jose lawyers were said to be filing opposing arguments against the league this month.
The Giants have a luxury hanging over their Bay Area counterparts’ heads that was a gift from them to begin with, and all so the eighth-worst team in attendance (A’s) doesn’t mess with second-best team in attendance (Giants).
That’s the motivation here, perpetuating the false premise that baseball is not interstate commerce, so that it doesn’t drive up competition between one of the richest teams in the league and one of the poorest.
This is just income disparity, on a bigger scale.