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MLB anti-trust lawsuit updates

There are two separate MLB anti-trust court cases in the news this week that directly and indirectly affect the Oakland Athletics.

Baseball's resident legal expert Wendy Thurm wrote two detailed articles that provide the dirty details. The brief highlights:

Number 1:  Consumers win right to trial.

A federal judge in New York ruled on Friday that Major League Baseball will face trial for violations of federal antitrust laws by stemming the exclusive broadcast territories for each of its 30 teams.

Number 2:  Ninth circuit San Jose-Athletics Lawsut

Today's San Jose hearing focused on two key issues: assuming the exemption exists, should it be limited to matters relating only to the reserve system; and putting aside the exemption, does San Jose even have standing" to bring an antitrust claim against MLB.

On the first issue, the court appeared to lean heavily in MLB's favor, in light of existing Supreme Court case law and decisions of the Ninth Circuit interpreting Supreme Court cases. That is, that the exemption is alive and well and covers MLB conduct relating to the business of baseball, including franchise relocation, and not just the reserve clause.

On the second issue, if MLB is successful in persuading the court to rule that San Jose has no standing to sue, it would make the case less much less compelling for a later effort to seek Supreme Court review on the exemption issue.


Where does this leave the A's?

On the exclusive broadcast territory case.

If the New York court rules against MLB that could eventually open up holes in the other MLB anti-trust case in San Jose. Whoever loses this case is certain to appeal trying to eventually get the Supreme Court to rule.

As a fan, I would love for MLB to lose this one so I can use MLB At Bat wherever I live.  I would pay more if I could but no amount of money will allow this. More and more people have gone cable-less as the Internet becomes a bigger part every demographic in society. Those people then switch to unauthorized and unpaid alternatives rather than get cable.

Another big side benefit for the A's is it could take money directly out of the pockets of the big market teams. Their monster cable T.V. rights deals would be worth less allowing the A's to be more competitive on future payrolls.

MLB's collective bargaining agreement stipulates that teams share 34% of their local TV money (excluding the Dodgers who have a sweetheart deal). The shared pool is then split evenly among all thirty teams.

If this lawsuit goes through we could expect more of that local money would go to national T.V. rights which is split equally between all teams. It's hard to estimate just how much less local T.V. money the large market teams would then make but 10%-20% might be a starting point.

For the A's and competitive baseball in general, splitting all media rights equally ( like the N.F.L.) would be the best possible outcome of this lawsuit.

On the San Jose's case.

Again, whoever loses (most certainly San Jose) will also try to get the Supreme Court to then overrule (which would be based on the original anti-trust exemption being labor law only). It's an extreme long shot at this point but it's the only shot the largest city in Northern California (#10 in the nation) has at a MLB team. It's more than worth it for them to pursue to the bitter end.

My only preference is that the A's get a new stadium somewhere in the Bay Area before they get feed up, sell, and leave the Bay Area altogether. Both these cases will probably take a minimum of several more years (probably more) to finally resolve unless MLB compromises at some point. Throw in the Raiders probable multiple future lawsuits on the most likely place for a new baseball stadium at this point (where the old one is) and lawyer-ball seems to fit the A's to a tee.