Who cares about post-season baseball? MLB is engaging in exciting legal action this October!
Judge Whyte began the proceedings with questions about the existence and scope of baseball’s antitrust exemption. It was clear from his questions that the judge had read the motion papers and the case law in detail. He was prepared with pointed questions for both sides.
Joe Cotchett, who represents the City, addressed the court first. Cotchett argued that the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have narrowed the exemption significantly, and that it now covers only the “business of baseball.” Cotchett then argued that the “business of baseball” is limited to “the play on the field” and does not include matters relating to team location and relocation.
John Keker argued for MLB. He told the court that the exemption was alive and well and that the “business of baseball” includes — at a minimum — league structure and organization, franchise location, broadcast agreements, and revenue sharing….
If I were a betting woman — and I am not — I would wager that Judge Whyte will dismiss the federal antitrust claims, either based on lack of standing or the antitrust exemption, or both. I’m less sure where his thinking is on the state law claims — both on the question of his jurisdiction to decide them if he dismisses the federal claims and on the merits of the claims. It is unusual for a court to dismiss a case outright on a motion to dismiss, without providing the plaintiff an opportunity to re-state its claims in light of the court’s decision. Unusual, but not unheard of.