San Jose councilman ups the raw-sewage rhetoric in MLB antitrust suit

Jason O. Watson

The lawsuit may be short lived, but the war of words has only just begun.

Politics in 21st century America is a debased, debauched art. The cutting humor of Benjamin Franklin, the eloquence of Thomas Jefferson, the ominous oratory of Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, equal parts King James Bible and Shakespeare, have never been in great supply, but are totally lacking now. We don't even get a takedown like Senator James Blaine's of Republican party hack Roscoe Conkling, with its references to Conkling's, "Grandiloquent swell, his majestic super-eminent, over-powering turkey gobbler strut." Nowadays it's a lucky thing if we get mere coherence.

That's why this press release from San José Councilmember Sam Liccardo on the subject of that city's litigation against Major League Baseball over the thwarted relocation of the Oakland A's is so much fun. The case, the subject of a hearing in federal court today, accuses baseball of illegally blocking the team's move. You start reading the dry boilerplate of the first paragraph -- "Through this litigation, we're committed to ensuring that San Jose has an opportunity to compete on the same level playing field as any city in the nation. I'm confident that San Jose will outperform any other city as a Major League venue, but only if we're given the opportunity to compete" --- and you think, "Hell with this; it's just some pontificating pol. Let's see if the Onion has put up anything new." Then the rhetoric of the second paragraph sneaks up on you, Liccardo going off like Malcolm Gladwell covering a reunion of the Baader-Meinhof Gang:

We know that competition made this country great, and that's nowhere more evident than here, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Our companies and innovative technologies lead the world because we embrace the notion that disruptive innovations necessarily create new markets by destroying old ones. It's time to leave old-world thinking-the thinking of San Francisco billionaires and their lawyers and lobbyists who seek to protect their markets from competition-behind. San Jose has a right to compete, and the AL West Division-champion Athletics also have the right to compete in a venue without weekly sewage backups.

All of this may come to nothing; MLB is protected by a federal anti-trust exemption which may rule out any punishment for their cartel-like behavior, and San Jose may lack the standing to sue given their lack of injury in the case. These were the issues litigated today, and it will be some time before we get a verdict. Until then, at least we'll have the first-ever invocation of creative destruction as a rationale for relocating a baseball team, as well as a timely reminder that the only coliseum in worse shape than Oakland's  is the one in Rome, and that in the coming playoff confrontation between the A's and Tigers, the only real winner may be dysentery.

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