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San Jose Files Suit Against MLB For Stalling Oakland A’s Move

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Brett Anderson #49 of the Oakland Athletics pitches the first pitch of the game to Franklin Gutierrez #21 of the Seattle Mariners during Opening Day at O.co Coliseum on April 1, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Brett Anderson #49 of the Oakland Athletics pitches the first pitch of the game to Franklin Gutierrez #21 of the Seattle Mariners during Opening Day at O.co Coliseum on April 1, 2013 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – The San Jose city council has voted to file suit against Major League Baseball over the delay in allowing the Oakland A’s to move to a new ballpark San Jose.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in federal court, also challenges the territorial claims by the San Francisco Giants over the South Bay region. The Giants have objected to the A’s potential move on grounds they relied on territorial rights to the San Jose-area market when the Giants built their ballpark.

According to the suit, the City of San Jose says MLB has been dragging its feet in having owners vote on the A’s proposed move to San Jose.

The lawsuit says MLB has controlled the location of teams under the “guise” of an exemption to federal antitrust law. The lawsuit is disputing that exemption.

Peninsula attorney Joe Cotchett, the man who filed the lawsuit, told KCBS the suit would in essence state that MLB could not block a move by the Oakland A’s  to downtown San Jose.

“It’s going to cost the city millions of dollars in tax revenues. It’s all about economics, but more importantly it could bring over 1,000 jobs building the new stadium here,” said Cotchett. “It’s all about the commissioner of baseball denying for years now, the right [for] the 10th largest city in the nation, San Jose, one of the fastest-growing cities.

“The NBA, the NFL, National Hockey League, none of them have the law saying that they’re not governed by the antitrust law. By the way, there’s no other industry, company, area of work that has an exemption to the antitrust laws,” said Cotchett.

Baseball’s antitrust exemption was granted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922, with the court ruling that baseball is not interstate commerce.

While baseball may have started as a local affair, it is “squarely in the realm of interstate commerce,” the lawsuit contends.

“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,” the lawsuit says.

Four years ago, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a committee to study the San Jose move, and has deferred questions about the planned move to the committee.

He rejected a proposal earlier this year from San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed to sit down and talk about the A’s plans and said Reed’s reference to additional litigation at the time was “neither productive nor consistent with process that the Athletics have initiated under our rules.”

Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment. A’s owner Lew Wolff released a brief statement.

“I have no details,” Wolff said. “However, I am not in favor of legal action or legal threats to solve business issues.”

Wolff has said he is focused on a new stadium in San Jose rather than a move outside the Bay area. Wolff is allowed to consider other sites within the A’s territory—such as downtown Oakland—but approval from MLB would be needed for a move outside the territory.

Selig has previously said additional litigation over the A’s move would be unproductive.

The A’s current stadium is run down. Over the weekend the facility had plumbing problems which resulted in sewage leaking into the team locker rooms.

The pipes backed up on the lower levels of the stadium, creating a stink and pools of water in the clubhouses used by both teams and the umpires.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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