It’s been a long time coming — the trial court decision came in October 2013 — but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled against San Jose in its effort to get Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption set aside. I have yet to read the decision in full. I’ll update once I do. In the meantime:
San Jose has been trying to get the Oakland A’s to move there, but the territory belongs to the San Francisco Giants and sued the league, alleging that its antitrust exemption which allows the league to block a team from moving into another’s territory, was unconstitutional. While I am in total sympathy with San Jose over the antitrust exemption — I believe it is dumb and should be overturned at some point — their case on the merits was really, really weak for a host of reasons.
I detailed the reasons why this was the case nearly two years ago, but the short version is that, even if the antitrust exemption should be overturned, San Jose’s specific case does establish an antitrust injury. Maybe the Athletics are being injured by not being able to move where they want to go, but they’re not the ones suing. San Jose has lost nothing as a result of Major League Baseball’s acts — maybe $75,000 on a land purchase option — and their entire complaint is otherwise based on speculative damages.
But to even get a court to listen to those, someone has to rule that Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption does not apply. The 9th Circuit has now refused to do that, leaving San Jose with the U.S. Supreme Court. So, let’s meet back here in a couple of years and see how that goes.
UPDATE: Read the decision. It’s a just full-fledged Heisman at San Jose, citing the three big Supreme Court cases giving MLB its antitrust exemption — most recently the Curt Flood case — and saying that San Jose doesn’t even get past the first threshold. MLB’s exemption from the antitrust laws, while not absolute, certainly covers franchise relocation, the court ruled, thus kicking this one to the curb as a matter of law.
San Jose can go to the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court has itself ruled that it will take Congress acting to change the law as it applies to Major League Baseball in order to have the exemption removed or modified enough to cover cases like this. So, sorry guys.
This is . . . interesting. It would appear, at least based on the tweets of some people who tend to know what’s up with the Mets, that the Mets are requiring their players to pay to attend certain offseason workouts:
Rubin added later:
The “Barwis” mentioned there is the Mets new strength and conditioning consultant, Mike Barwis. He is more famous for working for the University of Michigan and West Virginia University. He’s also the star of the Discovery Channel TV show “American Muscle.”
During the Winter Meetings I spoke with a baseball source who voiced some non-specific skepticism about these workouts and the Mets’ hiring of Barwis. I am going to assume that Rubin’s view — that Mets players are, more or less, being compelled to attend these things, at their own expense, no less — is what they were talking about.
If this is true — and given that Barwis himself is telling people that minor leaguers are paying him, there’s a good chance it is — it’s simply awful. As we’ve discussed an awful lot around here, minor leaguers make peanuts for the most part. And yet the Mets are, allegedly, requiring them to shell out for their own training and, subtly or otherwise, communicating that there is a penalty for not attending the sessions.
And you thought the Mets were cheapskates based on their payroll alone.
Baseball America reports that Rob Manfred wants to unify American baseball. His words at a speech to the American Baseball Coaches Association:
“Major League Baseball is committed to the idea that we are going to be more actively engaged with all parts of the baseball community at all levels . . . Our tagline for this effort is One Baseball,” Manfred said. “We want one umbrella effort, with Major League Baseball at the top of it, but involving college, high school and various youth programs. Going forward, we have to attack the youth and amateur market in a single unified and coherent way.”
He didn’t mention the minor leaguers. Those guys are still on their own, I guess. And screw them if they want to make more than $7.25 an hour.
As for youth and amateur baseball, the best thing Major League Baseball could probably do is subsidize leagues so that you don’t have to be rich to play at the highest youth levels. Because as of now, youth baseball is becoming a sport for the well off. Kids and their parents have to pay big fees to play and a lot of travel is required. Given the choice, a kid who isn’t rich is likely to choose basketball or football over baseball, as those sports have much stronger school-based programs and youth programs that don’t skew as expensive and travel-intensive as baseball can.
Mark Armour and Dan Levitt have written a book: In Pursuit of Pennants, which examines how front offices have historically found innovative ways to build winning teams. In support of that, they are counting down the top-25 GMs of all time over at their blog. Since it’s slow season, I’m going to continue linking to the countdown as it’s great stuff we rarely read about in the normal course.
Today Mark and Dan discuss Jim Campbell, who ran the Detroit Tigers from the early 60s and into the early 90s. As they note, he was the last of the old school GMs who hated free agency and didn’t really use it as a tool to build his teams. Stopgap guys? Sure. But no big splashes. Yet he presided over teams that won tons of ballgames and two World Series.
He also, however, presided over teams that cratered when the excellent of core players he and his scouts signed and/or drafted got old. The post-Kaline Tigers of the mid-70s and the post-Gibson/Morris/Trammell/Whitaker Tigers of the early 90s were some bad old teams who likely would’ve won more games had Campbell been willing to add some star power and cut loose some dead wood earlier than he did. It’s never a good idea to go through life with one hand tied behind your back.
But even if Campbell only used one hand, he did it masterfully. Really, has there ever been one team with two distinct cores of amazing players like the 1960s and 1980s Tigers had that were put together by the same GM? I can’t think of one.
When Murray Chass writes a blog post in which he, himself, is not the most unreasonable person speaking, well, you know you’re on to something special.
Today he writes about voters who voted for either Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, but who did not vote for both. It’s a topic I’ve personally been fascinated with and have written about it a couple of times here myself.
Chass spoke to a couple of these guys, and here is the justification one gave for voting for Roger Clemens but not voting for Barry Bonds:
“I’ve always believed PEDs shouldn’t be used as a factor in voting, so I went with Clemens and Bonds in the past,” he said in an e-mail. “But, honestly, my head is spinning when I’m researching these guys. So this year I deemed there were numerous strong candidates and decided to invoke the character clause with Bonds, deeming him a jerk who perhaps doesn’t meet Hall standards.
”Look, I know he belongs on merit, but I just had trouble voting for him. I know there are other less than perfect guys but Bonds is way worse. Fact is, I have trouble being consistent year to year with my principles.”
PEDs are not a factor, but Bonds gets the character clause thrown at him for being “a jerk.” Between that and his admission that (a) this so-called expert can’t research the matter at hand without his head spinning; and (b) has no grasp on even his own principles, we are either witnessing the work of the worst Hall of Fame voter in history or else a cleverly subtle intentional public forfeiture of his voting privileges.