Oh boy. We all knew this was coming.
Just before noon yesterday it was announced that the city of San Jose is suing Major League Baseball for refusing to let the A’s move to San Jose. While anybody who has been following the stadium situation is aware that the San Jose City Council has been gearing up for this for quite some time, it was still a surprise to learn the news. A contentious issue that has already splintered the fan base is now going to be ratcheted up tenfold. Perhaps it’s my bias here (since I want the team to remain in Oakland) but I don’t think this lawsuit has any merit.
For one, the basis of the lawsuit is that San Jose claims that MLB is harming the city economically by not allowing the A’s to move. In a statement released by Chuck Reed’s office, the City of San Jose believes, “This restriction is costing San Jose residents millions of dollars in new annual tax revenues that could go towards funding more police officers, firefighters, libraries, gang prevention efforts, road repairs and other critical city services.”
First off, you can’t bring a lawsuit claiming economic damages when those revenues were not a part of your city budget in the first place. San Jose estimates that a new stadium will bring the city at least $135 million in annual revenue. The key word in that previous is “estimate.” There are no actual damages occurring at this time. The city of San Jose is not going under or experiencing any economic hardship because the A’s haven’t moved, so the claim that not allowing them to move has hurt the city economically is completely baseless.
Of course, having that money going to city coffers would help, but it’s not already in their budget so it’s not like it’s being taken away and forcing them to make-up for a shortfall. Hell, the city of Oakland could come back and say losing the team is a much bigger financial hardship for Oakland than not getting the team is for San Jose.
Since this is an antitrust suit, San Jose must prove that: (i) there is an antitrust injury; (ii) the injury must be direct; (iii) the damages or injury must not be speculative; (iv) the risk of duplicative injury; and (v) the complexity of damages (apportionment). I’m no Matlock, but based on the third point alone I believe this lawsuit should be tossed.
Once again, perhaps it is my bias, but nothing has convinced me that San Jose has standing to sue. As far as I’m concerned, the city of San Jose has not incurred any real financial damages. Any claim of damages is solely based on mere future speculation and predictions, and the courts don’t exist to dole out retribution based on prognostications.
Perhaps if Lew Wolff, John Fisher, and the A’s themselves had filed this lawsuit it may have a chance of standing up in court since they could claim that MLB’s reticence to render a decision on their attempts to move to San Jose has caused them various problems and hurts their bottom line as they languish in an outdated facility.
The City of San Jose is represented in this case by attorney Joseph W. Cotchett and the firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP. Raiders fans may recognize the name. There was speculation that Cotchett was working the case pro bono, but everything I’ve found so far says the firm is working on contingency.
Some have theorized that this lawsuit is just a way to thrust the stadium issue back into the public spotlight and force MLB’s hand to make a decision. It’s been four years since Bud Selig appointed a blue ribbon committee to study the stadium situation, and almost 18 years since the Raiders moved back to Oakland and mangled the Coliseum in the process. A’s fans have been kept in limbo for quite some time. Regardless of whichever side you stand on, it’s time for some sort of resolution.
Batten down the hatches everybody, it’s going to be an interesting battle.