A federal judge today issued a split decision on a motion by Major League Baseball to dismiss a lawsuit by the city of San Jose that accuses the
league of unlawfully preventing the Oakland A's from moving to the South Bay.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte upheld MLB's right to regulate the relocation of teams as a part of "the business of baseball" that is exempted from federal antitrust laws.
However, Whyte denied the motion in part, agreeing with San Jose's argument that MLB interfered with a contract the city and A's owner Lew Wolff signed for an option on land for a possible future stadium.
"Although MLB's frustration of the option agreement is not an antitrust violation, MLB is nonetheless aware of the Option Contract and has
engaged in acts ... indicating an intent to frustrate the contract," Whyte wrote.
The city had agreed to postpone a citywide popular vote on the stadium proposal after MLB said it would take up the matter and make a decision in a reasonable amount of time, Whyte wrote.
By delaying the decision, the A's incurred another $25,000 expense to extend the option contract, Whyte wrote.
"By asking the city to delay on a public vote on the stadium, the city was justified in assuming that MLB would make a decision within a reasonable time, which it has not," the judge wrote.
"The court concludes that the allegations in the complaint are sufficient to state a claim for tortious interference with contract," he wrote.