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Gameday: Who Has The Edge In The MLB Vs. SJ Court Battle?

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San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Dennis-O'Donnell_BIO-HEAD Dennis O'Donnell
Dennis O’Donnell is the Sports Director at KPIX 5. He has received...
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KPIX 5 Sports Director Dennis O’Donnell hosts “Gameday” every Sunday night at 11:30pm on CBS 5 and offers his unique sports analysis here.

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Who knew Chuck Reed had that kind of curveball in his arsenal? San Jose’s mayor shocked Major League Baseball Tuesday by filing a lawsuit against Bud and his so-called “Blue Ribbon Committee.”

Here is the meat of the lawsuit.

“For years, MLB has unlawfully conspired to control the location and relocation of major league men’s professional baseball clubs under the guise of an ‘antitrust exemption’ applied to the business of baseball,” the lawsuit reads.

In short, Reed and the San Jose City Council are prepared to challenge baseball’s sacred antitrust exemption in court. A’s owner Lew Wolff is dancing a tightrope, saying publically he didn’t think litigation was a good idea. But in the privacy of his own bedroom, the guy is doing cartwheels. The A’s and San Jose have waited four years for the Blue Ribbon Committee to form some conclusion as a possible relocation to San Jose. One Giants executive told me that the committee’s silence was a finding in itself.

So let’s cut through the ribbon BS and get right to the point. San Jose doesn’t want to litigate this thing. Baseball surely doesn’t want to go to court on the remote possibility that Justice Scalia turns out to be an A’s fan. No, what San Jose is doing is pushing the go button. After four years of silence, baseball will have finally be forced to act, or else. What action? There are really only two options.

First, the A’s and baseball hand over an outrageous ransom to the Giants who then forfeit their territorial rights. Second, the Giants hold firm in their refusal and force the lawsuit to go to court. If you’re scoring at home, the antitrust exemption has been challenged twice in court in 1953 and 1972, both times being upheld. But times are different and MLB knows it.

Baseball’s special rule came into play in 1922 when the court ruled that baseball is not interstate commerce that Congress can regulate. But that was 91 years ago and much has changed; Certainly enough to challenge the rule all the way to the Supreme Court. Does baseball really want to risk that? Sure, it could take years and the A’s could move elsewhere.

Does anyone wonder why baseball teams rarely relocate, while other leagues move from city to city like families who find new jobs? It’s because the antitrust exemption gives absolute power to baseball’s owners. It is the owners who refused the Giants sale to a Tampa group in 1992. Take away the exemption, take away the power.

The chances of baseball losing the exemption over this lawsuit? I’ll give it five percent. Let’s be honest. Congress and the courts have far more pressing matters than an A’s baseball stadium in San Jose. It’s less about the lawsuit than it is about the threat. But the thought of Chuck Reed and his gang council people taking on mighty MLB could make for must-see TV.

See you on TV.

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

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