We rarely cheer cities for filing lawsuits -- but for San Jose's decision to sue Major League Baseball for blocking the Oakland A's from moving south, we're pulling out our pom-poms. Go lawyers!
We would be less enthusiastic if the federal suit were a gamble with taxpayers' money, but it is not. The law firm of Joseph W. Cotchett will be paid -- by Major League Baseball -- only if it wins the litigation or achieves a settlement. Since Cotchett has experience in antitrust and sports litigation, he must have some confidence that he'll prevail.
San Jose has waited four years for the inept Bud Selig to make the call on the A's request to move to San Jose. It would be more profitable for the team and for Major League Baseball overall, since Oakland is a losing proposition (even when the ballpark is not flooded with sewage).
Selig, the milquetoast head of Major League Baseball, has been cowed in part by the San Francisco Giants' threat of litigation if they lose San Jose as part of their arbitrarily-designated territory. Well, now Selig's got an actual lawsuit to fret over.
And fret he should. The antitrust exemption San Jose is targeting makes no sense. Nearly a century old, it was implemented when baseball was very much a local sport. Today its money comes from national television, and team fans are spread nationwide. It's the definition of interstate commerce.
A downtown ballpark would be terrific for San Jose. The city was smart to assemble land and get environmental studies out of the way. The benefits to downtown businesses would be huge. And the Silicon Valley tech industry's enthusiasm for the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara would be similar for the A's. But the city can't stay on hold forever. The lawsuit calls the question.
Councilman Sam Liccardo floated the idea several months ago and talked with Cotchett. Mayor Chuck Reed seemed cautious at first but he got over it -- maybe because Selig has been brushing off his overtures like an ump dusting home plate.
It was amazing Tuesday to see unanimous enthusiasm for the suit on a usually divided City Council. Xavier Campos, Ash Kalra and others who are, shall we say, not the mayor's pals issued statements gushing about the merits of the lawsuit. (We could have lent them our pom-poms.) Business and labor are of one mind on this.
That's important because, for San Jose's purposes, a settlement that allows the team to move would be the best outcome -- quicker than plodding through federal courts. A united front makes for a strong bargaining position.
We hope the strategy succeeds and the A's play ball here. But at least the lawsuit will force a decision one way or the other.