No matter what line of work you may be in, chances are very good you would be excused from reporting for duty for a few days for the birth of your child.
Not so, if you are professional baseball player, apparently. By the way some act, you’d think we were still in the 1960’s.
Last season, New York Mets infielder Daniel Murphy was trashed by a segment of baseball observers for spending two games away from the team to be with his wife while she was giving birth.
Never mind the fact that he was taking advantage of a capability allowed for all players. Since 2011, the collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players' Association allows for up to a three-day paternity leave absence.
Several prominent radio talking heads spoke for themselves and others who are living in the past.
"You're a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse,'' 60-year-old host Mike Francesa said of Murphy on WFAN, the Mets’ flagship radio station. "What are you gonna’ do, sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?"
On another WFAN show, former NFL quarterback and host Boomer Esiason agreed. The 52-year-old said that Murphy's wife should have had a "C-section before the season starts."
After widespread criticism was aimed in his direction, Esiason quickly backtracked.
This non-issue issue did not go away, however. Several weeks ago, it was St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal’s wife who had the audacity to deliver her child during the season while her husband’s team was in first place.
This time, the critics included a Pittsburgh-based sports media personality named John Stiegerwald, age 67.
On Twitter he said, “Trevor Rosenthal taking 3days paternity leave in the middle of a pennant race is ridiculous & another sign of the wussification of America.”
It is sad that in today’s world, some men cannot appreciate the importance of family values for all individuals, even highly-paid professional athletes. Even if they don’t agree, they have no right to criticize others for their personal decisions.
One man who has never been accused of being a wuss is Tony La Russa. He is one of baseball’s long-time tough guys, not ever willing to back down to anyone. However, the current Chief Baseball Officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, age 70, grew up in the game in a time long before paternity leave became commonplace.
In a book in which he fully cooperated, Buzz Bissinger’s “3 Nights in August,” La Russa shared his long-standing regret over how he dealt with a similar issue in his early days of managing.
Six months after making his eight-month pregnant wife move to Chicago against her wishes when he took his first managerial job with the White Sox, La Russa’s wife Elaine was hospitalized with pneumonia. It was early in the 1983 season and his family, including a three-year-old and the new baby, had not yet moved up from Florida to Chicago.
La Russa chose to remain with his club, asking his sister to take care of his children.
As the manager told Bissinger two decades later, “How was I stupid enough? I should have left the team and taken care of my wife and kids. I’ve never forgiven myself for that and they’ve never forgotten.”
The bottom line is that no one should be shamed for wanting to take an equal role in parenting. Those who cannot accept that don’t deserve the time of day.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me while I go and play with my beautiful granddaughter.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.