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Judge dismisses antitrust claims in San Jose lawsuit

Major League Baseball's right to determine when and where franchises may relocate has been upheld by a judge in San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte dismissed several claims Friday in a suit filed by the city of San Jose against MLB, alleging that antitrust laws had been violated over a proposed move of the Oakland Athletics to the largest city in the affluent Silicon Valley.

Commissioner Bud Selig has been studying this issue for several years and has said it's one of the loose ends he hopes to resolve before he retires in January 2015. The complication is that the San Francisco Giants claim territorial rights to San Jose.

The city sued MLB and Selig in June, charging that their "illegal and collusive actions thwarted Plaintiffs' diligent efforts to procure a Major League Baseball team for Silicon Valley."

Whyte did, however, also rule that San Jose could continue to seek damages on the ground that MLB interfered with an option agreement between the Athletics on land for a new stadium.

Major League Baseball released a statement in the wake of Friday's ruling: 

"Major League Baseball is pleased that the Court dismissed the heart of San Jose's action and confirmed that MLB has the legal right to make decisions about the relocation of its member Clubs. The Court dismissed all of San Jose's state and federal law claims challenging that right. We are confident that the remaining state law claims, which assert that San Jose's costs associated with the option agreement for the sale of real estate were increased by the timing of MLB's decision-making process, will be decided in MLB's favor, and that San Jose has not suffered any compensable injury."

Attorney Phil Gregory, who represented the city, has not decided whether to move forward in an attempt to collect damages.

In Whyte's ruling, he stated that baseball's longstanding antitrust exemption applies to issues like the proposed move, so the city's antitrust claims must be dismissed.

"The exemption is an 'aberration' that makes little sense given the heavily interstate nature of the 'business of baseball,'" he wrote. "Despite this recognition, the court is still bound by the Supreme Court's holdings."

Paul Hagenis a reporter for