SAN JOSE -- By suing Major League Baseball to spur a long-stalled Oakland A's move to the city, San Jose has likely ensured it won't get the outcome it most wanted: a quick green light to bring the green and gold to the South Bay.

The lawsuit reflects San Jose's impatience with four-plus years of MLB indecision on the proposed A's move, which has been aggressively opposed by the San Francisco Giants. The upside of the strategy is that it sets a legal timeline toward a decision beyond the baseball commissioner's control. The downside is that federal courts can also move at a glacial pace.

Roger Noll, professor emeritus of economics at Stanford University and an expert in the sports industry and antitrust regulation, said "the lawsuit eliminates the possibility of indefinite delay, which seems the most likely path the city was on." But he added that it also "eliminates the possibility of a positive decision by MLB in the short run."

"While MLB may well settle this case by allowing the move," Noll said, "that is unlikely to happen until the details of the case by the city are fully revealed, which is likely to take at least a year."

That means some of the key players in the drama, notably MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, may have moved on before the A's ballpark fate is determined. Next year is Reed's last in office. And Selig is expected to retire in 2015. Both he and A's managing general partner Lew Wolff, his former college fraternity brother who is leading the team's San Jose relocation effort, will be 80 by then.

Reed, whom Selig turned down for a personal meeting this year to discuss the A's move, signaled at Tuesday's news conference on the lawsuit that he no longer expects "an answer from Major League Baseball" before he leaves office.

"We filed the legal action to get rid of the territorial restrictions," Reed said, "so that future mayors and future councils will be able to seek a baseball team without those restrictions getting in the way."

Procedurally, MLB is expected to file a motion to dismiss the case next month, essentially arguing to a judge what MLB executive Rob Manfred stated after the city announced its lawsuit: that it "has no basis in law or in fact" and should be thrown out of court. A hearing likely would be scheduled in September, said Philip Gregory, an attorney with the Joseph W. Cotchett law firm, which is handling the case for San Jose.

It remains to be seen what specific arguments MLB would offer. Likely grounds would include challenging San Jose's "standing" to sue as an injured party, said Nathaniel Grow, who teaches business law at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.

Since MLB has not yet rendered a decision blocking the A's move, Grow said, "it raises a question of why is this in court now." Downtown businesses had explored filing a lawsuit on their own but backed off after concluding they would have a hard time establishing standing.

But Gregory said that a land-purchase option agreement that the A's signed with San Jose to buy city ballpark land lays solid grounds for the city lawsuit.

"The city's able to say that the A's said they want to move and signed an option agreement, but MLB won't let them," Gregory said.

MLB also is likely to assert organized baseball's nearly century-old exemption from federal antitrust law, established by a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court decision and twice upheld since.

San Jose's case argues that the exemption, which the Supreme Court last considered in 1972, would fail to survive a modern challenge because it is inconsistent with antitrust law governing other professional sports leagues. Grow, who is writing a book about the 1922 decision, is skeptical of San Jose's chances at prevailing on the antitrust argument.

"The Supreme Court three times said federal antitrust law is not applicable to Major League Baseball," Grow said.

Gregory said MLB also may request that the case, now assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard Lloyd, be handed over to a federal district judge, a move that would add delay.

Assuming San Jose's case survives the dismissal motion, that would pave the way for the city to begin taking testimony and gathering evidence -- something observers said baseball executives would prefer to avoid -- in preparation for a trial. Gregory said that a trial could happen by late next year, but others said it could take longer.

Either way, that's a point at which the city's lawyers and skeptics agree that MLB may be moved to push for a settlement rather than risk its antitrust exemption to an adverse court ruling.

"Until they get to the courthouse steps, we don't think they'll sit down and talk," Gregory said.

Grow agreed that "if they can get there, that becomes more likely," but added: "I may not be as optimistic as they are about their chances of getting there."

Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.