At least one person thinks San Jose has a strong case against Major League Baseball

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Unfortunately that one person is ESPN’s legal analyst Lester Munson who, as we and many others have noted over the years, tends to get things pretty darn wrong pretty darn often. You won’t be shocked to hear that I feel like he’s off on this one too.

To be fair, he is half right. He analyzes Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption and notes just how anomalous it is. He also notes that, in the right case, the Supreme Court would probably overturn the old Federal Baseball Club vs. National League case which gave us the antitrust exemption in the first place. It’s really a piece or garbage precedent. Where he’s wrong is in thinking that this is the right case.

As I mentioned the other day, the biggest hurdle to San Jose’s suit is getting its arguments heard on the merits in the first place. That’s because, in my view and the view of many others, San Jose lacks legal standing to assert a claim against Major League Baseball and hasn’t alleged any actual damages, as opposed to speculative ones. San Jose claims it will lose money if the A’s are not relocated there. It has made no allegation, however, that it actually has been damaged by any act of Major League Baseball. Munson makes no mention of this whatsoever.

He does mention the American Needle vs. National Football League, case, however. This is one that should come up a lot in talking about the San Jose case, so here’s the quick and dirty: American Needle made NFL-logo merchandise for various teams. The NFL then said, nope, all merch will now be made by Reebok and Reebok only. American Needle sued, saying that the NFL’s anticompetitive act — 32 teams and the league conspiring to shut out competitors to Reebok — violated the law and caused its existing contracts to go bye-bye.  American Needle won that case, with the Supreme Court pounding the NFL’s claim to antitrust protection 9-0.

Here’s the difference, though: American Needle had a contract with NFL teams. It had a vested financial interest in doing business with these guys. Then the NFL came in and said “sorry, you’re shut out.” It had something then lost something by virtue of the NFL’s action.  San Jose has no similar interest or damage. It has a contract with the A’s that gives the A’s the option to purchase some land. The terms of that contract are entirely fulfillable without MLB doing anything. The A’s have paid San Jose the $50,000 the contract asks for. The A’s have not, by any report whatsoever, moved or attempted to move to actually buy land in San Jose, let alone move the team there. More importantly, the A’s are not a plaintiff in this suit. If they were I think it would be a totally different ballgame and MLB would be in big trouble. But that hasn’t happened.

There is always a chance a judge will go off the reservation and make a surprising ruling. As such, sure, there is a chance that San Jose’s suit goes farther than I think it will (and man, I hope it will).  But that’s pretty unlikely. And no matter the odds, Munson makes no mention of Major League Baseball’s possible defenses at all, let alone that they have some pretty stout defenses. There is not one passage in his column noting that, just maybe, the San Jose lawsuit isn’t a slam dunk. If a first year law student provided an analysis like Munson’s on a civil procedure exam he’d probably get a D, at best.

If you just read Munson’s analysis and nothing else — and given that he writes for the biggest sports media company on the planet, many probably have — you’d get a pretty skewed idea of what’s going on here. And the fact that ESPN continues to be cool with that sort of thing from him is frankly amazing.

Mike Trout has no interest in being a superstar

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At The Ringer, Michael Baumann published a terrific feature on Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Trout, 25, is a two-time American League MVP Award-winner and the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner. He’s already the greatest position player of his generation and is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

Recently, I ruffled a few feathers here by calling Trout boring. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick said as much last year. And the simple truth is that, for reasons Baumann explains, he is boring by choice. Trout wants to be a role model for kids. His agent Craig Landis said, “I have Little League and high school coaches come up to me all the time and tell me that they tell their kids, ‘This is how you do it. Period. In all aspects. This is your role model.'” Trout is the only active big league client Landis has. If he wanted to, Trout could have super-agent Scott Boras on bended knee begging for him to sign.

Trout is friendly to everyone and doesn’t come close to controversy when he speaks to the media. The most controversial thing Trout has said, Baumann recalls, is that his go-to order at Wawa is chicken noodle soup. For the uninitiated, Wawa is a popular gas station-slash-convenience store in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey as well as Maryland, Virginia, and Florida. Wawa is known for its coffee and its hoagies, even starting “Hoagiefest” almost a decade ago offering discounts on hoagies to its patrons. To go to Wawa just to get chicken noodle soup is akin to sacrilege — just ask any Wawa devotee. There are lots of them.

Trout does not bark at other players for playing the game differently, more emotionally. He himself doesn’t celebrate wildly when he does something great on the field, which happens to be quite often. He has taken what is, for a player of his stature, the bare minimum in endorsement deals.

It is a shame for Major League Baseball, and for its fans, that Trout has no interest in becoming a superstar. As you’ve no doubt read here, baseball has had trouble reaching younger audiences. The only sports with a lower percentage of kids 17 years of age or younger watching are golf and NASCAR. 17 percent of those aged 18-34 watch baseball, a far cry from the NBA’s 32 percent and the NHL’s 28 percent. When I was a kid, Ken Griffey, Jr. was arguably the most popular athlete among my peers. We imitated his batting stance when we played backyard baseball and stepped into the batter’s box in Little League. MLB marketed him like no baseball player had ever been marketed before, bringing him into our households on a regular basis. Griffey was in countless commercials, put his face on video games, and was a pop culture personality. Today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a kid who cares who Mike Trout is — or even Bryce Harper or Clayton Kershaw, for that matter — because they’re watching basketball, football, YouTube, Twitch and numerous other venues of entertainment. And MLB hasn’t made much of an effort to capture their attention.

Major League Baseball should be beating down our doors attempting to show us Trout’s otherworldly talent. Unfortunately, Trout has no interest in becoming the face of the sport the way Griffey did.

Rougned Odor received two horses as part of his contract extension with Rangers

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Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor reached an agreement with the Rangers on a six-year, $49.5 million contract extension. It was announced on Saturday and finalized on Thursday. The contract is pretty typical — a signing bonus, escalating salaries each year — except for one thing: Odor received two elite horses as well, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.

Here are those horses, per Jared Sandler of 1053 The Fan:

Players do sometimes get perks as part of their contracts. Usually it’s mundane stuff like extra game tickets for family and friends, use of a suite, limo rides, or plane tickets. Sometimes they can get rather specific. For example, in 2005, Troy Glaus got $250,000 per year in “personal business expenses” from the Diamondbacks, which was for his wife’s equestrian training. Hall of Famer George Brett got a 10 percent stake in an apartment complex in Memphis when he signed an extension with the Royals in the mid-1980’s. But as far as my research was able to go, no one received any horses, so that’s new.

Of course, the Rangers certainly think Odor is worth the perks. Last season, Odor hit .271/.296/.502 with 33 home runs, 88 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 632 plate appearances. And at just 23 years old, he has plenty of room to improve.