In a far-reaching decision split along ideological lines, the Supreme Court today struck down the long-held right granting fielders a right to choose.
The 5-4 decision in Second Baseman v Lead Runner maintained that "while the fielder has a right to make an out, the advancing runner also has the right to remain on base, in that he has already earned base position. The fielder's rights do not trump those of the lead runner."
The lead opinion, written by Antonin Scalia, stressed that while the fielder may not infringe on the rights of the lead runner to advance, the fielder does maintain the option of both making an out at first or holding onto the ball.
But Sonia Sotomayor, writing the dissent, maintained that the fielder, under the majority opinion, is left with no choice at all.
"It is a choice between two poor options," she wrote. "Get the trailing runner out or make no out. Either way, the other team moves at least one runner into scoring position."
The dissenting opinion also predicted the ruling would lead to future litigation over attempted double plays that don't succeed in getting the trailing runner out. "We will see another case brought here or baseball will be forced to change how such a play is scored," wrote Sotamayor.
Next week the Court is scheduled to take up the case challenging the in-the-area play, which touches on many real estate, zoning, eminent domain and baserunning issues.