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San Jose's lawsuit over MLB antitrust exemption gets stopped in its tracks

The ruling just about closes the book on the A's gaining territorial rights to Santa Clara County via the court system.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The A's organizational quest to move to San Jose took a major hit this morning, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling affirming a district court's prior decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the City of San Jose, thereby upholding Major League Baseball's exemption from American antitrust law.

The legal result isn't quite set in stone, though, according to Nathaniel Grow, a law professor at the University of Georgia and a Fangraphs contributor:

A Supreme Court review, while unlikely, now represents the Wolff/Fisher ownership's only shot at obtaining the territorial rights to Santa Clara County via the legal system.

Of course, the move doesn't seal the Athletics' fate — a move to San Jose could still happen. It would just have to be negotiated within Major League Baseball and would likely involve big-time financial compensation ending up in San Francisco's pocket in exchange for being essentially forced to relinquish territorial rights to Santa Clara County.

Incidentally, this is a real paragraph from a real opinion from a real judge in the real Ninth Circuit Court:

Like Casey, San Jose has struck out here. The scope of the Supreme Court's holding in Flood plainly extends to
questions of franchise relocation. San Jose is, at bottom, asking us to deem Flood wrongly decided, and that we cannot do. Only Congress and the Supreme Court are empowered to question Flood's continued vitality, and with it, the fate of baseball's singular and historic exemption from the antitrust laws.

There you have it. "Flood," for what it's worth, refers to a similar 1972 ruling upholding baseball's antitrust exemption, at which time the court system essentially stated that any change to that exemption would have to come via legislation, not lawsuits.

The lawsuit, though, probably didn't even represent the A's best shot at winning relocation rights. Lew Wolff has repeatedly said he doesn't support lawsuits against the league, and the organization's most realistic prospect for moving to San Jose has always been a lump-sum payment of a few hundred million to the Giants and being granted the rights to Santa Clara County.

That said, the A's options continue to dwindle and the stadium landscape continues to shift into sharper focus. Prospects for San Jose are still there, faint as ever, but the most realistic and viable stadium site, as of today, is the Oakland Coliseum or its surrounding parking lots.

With new city leadership present in Oakland and the Wolff/Fisher ownership becoming increasingly resigned to the fact that San Jose just isn't happening, the time is ripe for something to happen. Then again, that's where we've been for about five years.