SAN JOSE -- Lawyers for San Jose's antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed new arguments in federal court Friday supporting claims that blocking the Oakland A's planned move to the city is illegal.
San Jose filed the lawsuit June 18 against MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig alleging that an ongoing refusal to lift the San Francisco Giants' territorial rights to Santa Clara County violates laws aimed at fostering business competition and the city's contract rights under a land-purchase option agreement with the Athletics for a new ballpark.
MLB responded in papers filed Aug. 7 seeking dismissal of the case on grounds that U.S. Supreme Court decisions have exempted baseball from federal and state antitrust laws.
"Major League Baseball as a sport emphasizes competition," argued Joseph Cotchett, the lead attorney representing San Jose, in Friday's filing. "Yet Major League Baseball as a business refuses to believe it is subject to the same antitrust rules that apply to all other sports."
The city's brief states that MLB's "illegal and collusive actions have thwarted" San Jose's "diligent efforts to procure a major-league baseball team for Silicon Valley." It argues that baseball's antitrust exemption is antiquated and was limited to labor issues, which Congress overturned with the Curt Flood Act in the late 1990s.
MLB had no immediate comment on Friday's filing. The city's motion is set for hearing on Oct. 4 before Judge Ronald W. Whyte in federal court in San Jose.
The A's have sought a new ballpark in San Jose since early 2009. The Giants oppose the move, arguing the team relied on MLB rights to Silicon Valley in financing AT&T Park, where they have played since 2000.
The city's latest filing includes a supporting declaration from renowned sports economist Roger Noll, professor emeritus of economics at Stanford University, who performed an antitrust economics analysis of MLB's liability.
His declaration found no economic justification for protecting the market for one of MLB's most successful teams -- the San Francisco Giants -- at the expense of one of the MLB's least financially successful teams, the A's. Noll argued that permitting relocation of the A's to San Jose would increase the club's competitiveness and allow the team to build a new stadium and a larger, more economically powerful fan base.
The Giants, MLB's defending World Series champions, have drawn sellout crowds despite falling far out of playoff contention this season. An official count of 41,193 watched the team fall Thursday night to the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park.
The A's, despite defending an American League West title and contending again for the playoffs this year, reported Oakland attendance at Thursday night's game against the Houston Astros of 11,569. But MLB.com's A's beat reporter tweeted during the game that "there might be 2,000 people here for Astros-A's, and that's being generous." The A's average 2013 home attendance reported by ESPN was 22,485, almost half the Giants' average of 41,648.
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.