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Earlier in September, a judge in New York state’s highest civil court declared that the lawsuits of the Tri-City Valley Cats and the Norwich Sea Unicorns, both former Minor League Baseball affiliate clubs, can proceed to trial in November. This was a significant victory for them, as Evan Drellich detailed at The Athletic, as Major League Baseball wanted to have the suits dismissed: not settled, but just gone.
Drellich, later in the month, tweeted out part of the transcript from the virtual meeting between the two sides, where the judge was “not having any of” MLB’s pleas for a delay in the trial — if the trial had to happen, MLB wanted to keep pushing it off as long as possible. From the sounds of it, though, the judge believes this should all proceed, which is good news for a few reasons. Most promising of which is that, the longer MLB’s antitrust exemption stays in the spotlight and looks like it does more harm than good, the better.
As I detailed at Baseball Prospectus in early 2022, back when these suits were first filed, the chances of the courts removing MLB’s antitrust exemption are slim, due to retroactive liability: any decision removing the exemption would need to go up to the Supreme Court eventually, and they’re just unlikely to get rid of it. Not even because of the current political alignment of SCOTUS, or any alignment it might have, but because of that retroactive liability that would open MLB up to new lawsuits for every past instance of antitrust behavior that would have been previously protected. No, Congress is the way, but Congress isn’t going to do it without a push. So, keeping MLB’s abuse of the exemption in the news is one way to get Congress’ attention on it.
Between the A’s leaving Oakland for Las Vegas even though commissioner Rob Manfred has explicitly stated that the exemption is necessary to keep teams from relocating, and what went down with disaffiliating dozens of clubs like the Valley Cats and Sea Unicorns, there’s still plenty of anti-exemption gristle to chew on, even after minor-league players unionized and removed one of the most pressing concerns from the table. The longer this suit goes on, well, the better the chances someone with the ability to do something does something about it. Of course, we are talking about the United States Congress, so don’t get your hopes up. But we know nothing will happen without pressure: at least this creates the possibility of change.
Rob Manfred calling someone else a liar is the height of comedy. That is literally your job, my man. No notes, Rob, see if you can pull off a tight five during your next presser, maybe there’s a career in stand-up for you after your time as MLB’s commissioner ends.
It’s incredible that Manfred just kept going, in interview after interview, digging a deeper and deeper hole with his comments on Oakland’s mayor, Sheng Thao. He straight-up says “That woman” at one point! His incessant denials of everything very believable that Thao claims, sometimes things that are even backed up with receipts, is the baseball equivalent of the classic The Onion piece, “This War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region And Set Off A Global Shockwave Of Anti-Americanism vs. No It Won’t.” None of this makes him look even a little bit good. At best, Manfred is acting like someone who is sick of being forced to defend John Fisher, but knows he has to, so it’s just coming out in all kinds of frustrating ways his complete lack of public relations skills cannot hide.
Exactly why he’s bothering to keep going on all of this is unclear, too, since the A’s have seemingly won here. Or, at least, Fisher has. But maybe Fisher keeps wanting him to go out there because he needs more support at the owners’ meeting that will determine whether the A’s are allowed to leave — I imagine there are more than a few owners who have paid Fisher revenue-sharing they don’t believe he deserves that would love to ruin his life in the only way they can — or maybe his ego demands he be painted in the best light possible, to attempt to justify the decision to leave. “Dig up, stupid” probably suffices here.
Speaking of the A’s and Las Vegas, my latest at Baseball Prospectus is on the Schools Over Stadiums PAC formed by the Nevada State Education Association. The goal is to block the public funding for the A’s new stadium through some permissible legal moves that would be set into motion by a successful referendum. And it’s not just that it might work, it’s also that it has to: as Chris Daly, the Deputy Executive Director of Government Relations for the NSEA, explained to me, Nevada’s educational system is in dire need of assistance. Assistance that keeps going to new stadiums for billionaires instead of filling the many, many vacancies for teachers that have led to the largest class sizes in the country, as well as Nevada being the lone state to score three Fs in the Making the Grade education funding report.
Hmm, improve on being 48th in the country in education funding to better prepare your citizenry for their future in this world, or, cut another check for a billionaire who could pay and borrow everything he needs himself but won’t because cities, counties, and states keep giving him freebies? What a pickle.
Anyway, that story is completely free to read, you don’t even need to have a free account in order to do so. There’s a lot of important information in there explaining the situation in Nevada, and the downsides to these giveaways of public funds: the money for these stadiums has to come from somewhere, even when there’s a claim that there won’t be any new taxes.
One note about last week’s story on the Rays’ new publicly financed ballpark deal: it’s actually for $730 million in public funding, not $600 million, which puts it real close to Allegiant’s record of $750 million.
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