UPDATE: (2 p.m. on Friday) -- MLB released the following statement on Friday afternoon:
“Major League Baseball is pleased that the Court dismissed the heart of San Jose's action and confirmed that MLB has the legal right to make decisions about the relocation of its member Clubs. The Court dismissed all of San Jose's state and federal law claims challenging that right. We are confident that the remaining state law claims, which assert that San Jose's costs associated with the option agreement for the sale of real estate were increased by the timing of MLB's decision-making process, will be decided in MLB's favor, and that San Jose has not suffered any compensable injury."
The city of San Jose lost its antitrust argument against Major League Baseball Friday morning, but might have preserved an avenue to pursue litigation against the league for blocking efforts to relocate the Oakland A’s to the South Bay.
Federal judge Ronald M. Whyte upheld MLB’s right to regulate the relocation of teams under the “business of baseball” clause that exempts the league from federal antitrust laws. But Whyte also wrote in his opinion that MLB willfully interfered with an option between San Jose and A’s owner Lew Wolff to purchase land for a future stadium site near the Diridon rail station, and labeled the league's 91-year-old exemption as "unrealistic, inconsistent or illogical."
“Although MLB's frustration of the option agreement is not an antitrust violation, MLB is nonetheless ... engaged in acts ... indicating an intent to frustrate the contract," Whyte wrote.
San Jose attorney Philip Gregory told the San Jose Mercury News that the opinion upholds the city’s tort claims against MLB and provides a way for the case to go forward.
“The A's may have lost last night, but the A's and the city of San Jose won today," Gregory told the newspaper.
The Detroit Tigers eliminated the A’s in Game 5 of the AL Division Series Thursday night.
[RELATED: Tigers-A's LDS recap]
The A’s have attempted to move to San Jose for several years, but they ceded territorial rights to Santa Clara County to the Giants in the early 1990s as a courtesy when the Giants were exploring relocation options from Candlestick Park. The Giants have consistently moved to block any intrusion into Santa Clara County, citing the effect it would have on their franchise value and sponsorship agreements.
It would take three-fourths approval of MLB owners to overturn the Giants' territorial claim.