But San Jose is within San Francisco Giants territory and that is a problem.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is now under fire from the mayor of San Jose, California who wants an opportunity for the city to bid on an MLB expansion team. Mayor Matt Mahan sent a letter to Manfred on June 15th demanding an end to the San Francisco Giants’ ownership claim to territorial rights over the South Bay. Mayor Mahan would like to be in a position whereby San Jose could bid for an expansion franchise if MLB allows Oakland Athletics’ owner John Fisher to move his business to Las Vegas. The present San Francisco Giants’ organization controls the San Jose market thanks to Major League Baseball’s territorial rule and a previous Athletics’ ownership that ceded that part of the market to a previous Giants’ ownership.
MLB has an antitrust exemption that allows the business to control territories. In 1922, Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a landmark decision granted Major League Baseball an antitrust exemption and said baseball was a sport. He was wrong. Baseball is a business. The court ruled in favor of baseball in the case involving the Federal League’s Baltimore Terrapins whose ownership felt the National and American Leagues of baseball didn’t do enough for them after the demise of the Federal League in 1915. The owners sued the two leagues and eventually it got to the Supreme Court and baseball got an antitrust exemption because it was a game not an interstate business even though the Brooklyn, New York Dodgers could play the Cincinnati, Ohio Reds in what was clearly an interstate business. Justice Holmes wrote that “personal effort, not related to production, is not a subject of commerce” and that baseball therefore wasn’t subject to federal regulation. Baseball on all levels is a business. A little more than a century ago, the Supreme Court got it wrong.
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