Lew Wolff's Plan to Move the Oakland A's to San Jose Gets Hammered



A federal judge today issued a devastating blow to plans by A's owner Lew Wolf to move the team from Oakland to San Jose. US District Court Judge Ronald Whyte threw out most of the claims — including all the important ones — made by the City of San Jose in its lawsuit against Major League Baseball. The city sued MLB in an attempt to help Wolff bring the A's to the South Bay. The judge ruled that the only claim that the city can pursue in the courts involves monetary damages related to a $25,000 payment the A's made to San Jose.

Lew Wolff
  • Lew Wolff
San Jose officials attempted to put a positive spin on the ruling this afternoon, but the decision was nearly a total loss for the city, and if the decision is upheld on appeal, it could block the A's from ever moving to San Jose.

Whyte said in his ruling that — because of legal precedents established by the US Supreme Court and other higher courts — Major League Baseball has the sole authority given by Congress to decide whether the A's can move to San Jose, and that the courts cannot interfere in that decision. MLB has blocked the A's move because the San Francisco Giants own the territorial rights to the South Bay.

Whyte also said the only issue that can move forward in San Jose's lawsuit against MLB involves the alleged "tortious interference" by the league in a contract between the A's and San Jose involving land in which the A's want to build a new ballpark. Wolff signed an agreement with San Jose to purchase city-owned land in 2011, and paid the city $75,000 for a two-year option on the land. Recently, the A's paid another $25,000 for another one year option to buy the land. Whyte said that the MLB's delay in officially voting to block or allow the A's' planned move effectively forced the A's to pay that extra $25,000, and thus this issue could be pursued in court. The city also claims that MLB's failure to officially vote on the proposed move has cost the city money, because the city could possibly have sold the land to someone else. However, it's unclear whether that claim has any merit, and the amount of the loss could be negligible.

Moreover, the lawsuit against the league has damaged relations between San Jose and MLB, thus making the proposed move of the team to the South Bay even more unlikely.