The MLB player was publicly criticized for missing Opening Day to take a three-day paternity leave. Shame on fans, shame on the press!
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New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy played 161 of 162 games in the 2013 season. Over 658 at bats, he had 188 hits (second in the National League in that category), including 13 home runs, and scored 92 runs off of 188 hits. Murphy also led the league in stolen bases, succeeding at 23 out of 26 attempts. He finished the season with 78 runs batted in, and a batting average of .286. He was a productive player on a largely unproductive team. Maybe that’s why, until last week, he played in relative anonymity to those outside of the Mets franchise and fan base, receiving neither adoration nor scrutiny beyond the club.
But just after last Monday’s MLB Opening Day, Murphy found himself in the national spotlight—not for something he did on the field, but rather for something he didn’t do: He sat out the Mets’ first two games of the season because his wife went into labor on Opening Day. Had he missed this time because of a pre-season injury, his absence would have been a postscript to the Mets’ Opening Day loss to the Nationals, or their loss to the same team two days later. Instead, Murphy was absent from the roster for those games because he took his union-guaranteed three days of paternity leave. To some people—specifically a few opinionated fans and a few even more opinionated sports radio hosts—this was unacceptable. “Paternity [sic] leave is for woman [sic],” said one tweeter. Other Twitter users agreed: Babies are women’s work, and men should not drop everything to be there for their wives or newborn children. Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, a radio personality, even suggested that Murphy’s wife should have scheduled a Cesarean for before the start of the season, so that her delivery wouldn’t have interfered with the season. (You know, because that would have been healthy for all involved.)
Esiason, who has since offered a half-hearted apology, and his compatriots have put me into a very awkward position: As an avowed Phillies fan (I met my husband at a game), I am finding myself rooting for a Mets player. The fact that we’re having to defend a player’s right to take paternity leave—to enjoy the first few days of his first-born’s life with his family—is fucked up. Do we really have to explain that paternity leave is not just for “for woman”? So, with apologies to my beloved Phanatic, right now it is my moral duty to declare that I’m on Team Murphy.
I am not yet a parent. But since my husband and I were married, and even for the years of our cohabitation before that, everyone (including strangers) has asked us if and when we planned to procreate. Though the line of questioning is well-meaning, the intervention of others into our family planning is unwelcome; their scrutiny of our eventual delivery and postnatal decisions will be even more so—and that’s without any news organizations reporting on our plans. Daniel Murphy’s decision to exercise his right to paternity leave, per the 2011 MLB Player’s Association’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, was a private one he and his wife, Tori, made together. Murphy has received the vocal support of the Mets organization, and he was back at work by the Mets’ third game of the season.
We don’t live in a country that guarantees paternity or maternity leave, although an informal survey of my male friends with children revealed that most took a week or more, often unpaid, to be with their families. Three days is nothing, especially when it means leaving your wife—who just endured major abdominal surgery after hours of unsuccessful labor—and missing out on those first few amazing, terrifying, sleepless days of parenting.
That the Mets lost Murphy’s first game back probably proves that they wouldn’t have fared any better with Murphy in the lineup for the previous two. But it doesn’t matter. If it were late September and Murphy were batting .300 and the Mets were in playoff contention, it still wouldn’t matter. Murphy exercised his contractual right and his personal judgment in his decision to be present for the birth of his first-born son (who, it turns out, was ultimately delivered by C-section); no one has the right to judge him for that.
So to young Noah Murphy: Welcome to the world. Without even knowing it or meaning to, you just made your daddy famous—for being a baseball player who wants to exercise his right to be a proud papa. I hope that by the time you’re old enough for a baby of your own, you’ll get to spend all the time with him that you want.
To Tori Murphy: Best wishes for a speedy recovery far away from sports radio, and a baby who sleeps through the night. You married a swell guy, and it’s obvious that he loves you both very much, and that it was important to him that he be there to take care of you.
And to Daniel Murphy: Congratulations on your new arrival, and bravo for welcoming him into the world the way you wanted to. #TeamMurphy FTW.
P.S.: As much as I will always root for Dan Murphy, I still hope the Mets lose every game they play against the Phillies.
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