The Valecats nearing trial date against the Houston Astros in Major League Baseball

An attorney representing the Tri-City ValleyCats said they “still feel good about” their lawsuit against the Houston Astros and Major League Baseball, which dropped the ValleyCats as an affiliated minor league team two years ago.

However, Berg & Androphy’s attorney James Quinn said Friday he is less confident there will be a financial settlement before the case goes to trial next year in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

“I’m not optimistic that it will settle down,” Quinn said. “Because Major League Baseball has so far not indicated that they are willing to compensate ValleyCats and other teams that have sued in any reasonable and fair way.”

The ValleyCats filed a lawsuit in January of 2021 in the commercial division of the state Supreme Court for breach of fiduciary duty and malicious interference. In August of 2021, New York District Judge Barry Ostragher partially denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. He dismissed many of the ValleyCats’ claims while allowing others to move forward.

“The appeals court upheld our main claim, which is the allegation of harmful interference,” Quinn said. “And we are now in the discovery stage. The documents are being exchanged, there will be some filings in the fall and we are supposed to start the trial sometime next year.”

According to Quinn, Ostrager will preside over the trial.

“I think we still feel good about (the lawsuit),” Quinn said. We think the allegations are very clear. The facts are not all complicated. Major League Baseball decided that they would take charge of Major League Baseball and they did in a way that interfered with the ValleyCats’ relationships with minor leagues and ultimately led to them losing their affiliation. It’s not that complicated.”

Among the documents that the ValleyCats will request from the MLB, according to Quinn, are emails related to the MLB’s takeover of minor leagues. The MLB stripped 40 minor league teams of their affiliation, including the now-defunct Staten Island Yankees, who are also sued. The ValleyCats and Staten Island both belong to the New York-Penn League, which no longer exists.

Efforts to reach attorney John Hardman of Sullivan and Cromwell, the company that represents the MLB and the Astros, were unsuccessful.

The lawsuit seeks more than $15 million, roughly the value of ValleyCats before losing the affiliation, though Quinn said they have not finished determining the damages. They will use economic experts for the assessment. Quinn said they also haven’t determined the franchise’s value now that the ValleyCats belong to the Independent Frontier Association. Their average attendance has dropped from about 4,000 per game as associates in the Astros to 2,800 per game this season at Joseph El Bruno Stadium in Troy.

“What we’re mainly focusing on is the fact that the value of the franchise has been destroyed by not belonging to Major League Baseball,” Quinn said.

The Tri-City property group includes Chairman Doug Gladstone, son of the late principal owner Bill Gladstone, Chairman Rick Murphy, and associates Martin Barr, Steve Siegel and Jane Burton.

“They’ve been hit pretty hard, but the most important fact is that their ability to sell the franchise without affiliation has been significantly diminished,” Quinn said.

When asked if the property group had tried to sell the team, Quinn replied, “That, I’m not sure, but that’s not really the point, whether they’re still trying to sell it. The truth is they can’t sell it.”