New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has been getting all sorts of flak on sports radio today for missing last night’s game against the Washington Nationals. Why? Because yesterday was his second (and final) day of paternity leave, which is apparently one too many.
Murphy got word late on Sunday night that his wife was in labor, and rushed to Florida to be with her. He was there for the birth of their first child the next day, Monday, which also happened to be Opening Day. The Mets had Tuesday off, and Murphy decided to stay with his wife Wednesday before flying back in time for today’s game, also against the Nationals, which he played in. Murphy told ESPN that he and his wife decided together that it would be best for him to stay the extra day. “Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off,” he said. “It felt, for us, like the right decision to make.”
For a number of sports commentators, however, Murphy’s decision seemed ludicrous. New York-based radio host Mike Francesa kicked off the outrage yesterday afternoon, devoting his entire WFAN show to asking, exasperatedly, why on earth a man would need to take off more than the few hours during which his child is actually born. “For a baseball player, you take a day. All right. Back in the lineup the next day. What are you doing? What would you be doing? I guarantee you’re not sitting there holding your wife’s hand.”
“You’re a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help,” he said. “I don’t see why you need…What are you gonna do? Are you gonna sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days? What are you gonna do?
Repeating this question at least five more times over the course of a 20-minute segment, Francesa also continued to confuse maternity and paternity leave. Noting that it’s possible for the lucky few to stagger their paternity leave rather than using it in one chunk, Francesa was dumbfounded: “What do you do? You work the next day, then you take off three months, to do what? Have a party? ‘The baby was born…But I took maternity leave three months later.’ For what? To take pictures? I mean, what would you possibly be doing? That makes no sense. I didn’t even know there was such a thing.” (The full clip is above.)
Hosts of WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton” spent their morning show today piling on to the criticism. “To me, and this is just my sensibility: 24 hours,” Craig Carton said. “You stay there, baby’s good, you have a good support system for the mom and the baby. You get your ass back to your team and you play baseball.”
Cohost and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason thought even 24 hours was too much time: “Quite frankly, I would’ve said, ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day.'”
The Mike and Mike show on ESPN Radio also devoted tons of airtime to scrutinizing the nondrama. Cohost Mike Golic, a former NFL defensive lineman, weighed in: “If you wanna be there for the birth of your child, I have zero problem with it. That said, when the baby is born…The baby was born on Monday. And he didn’t play in a game [on Wednesday]? This is just me, I would have been back playing.”
Notably, the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players association allows for three days of paternity leave. That’s better than most jobs—only about 13 percent of workplaces offer paternity leave at all, and the United States is one of four countries in the world that doesn’t mandate leave for new moms and dads.
For his part, Murphy seems to be shrugging off the criticism: “We had a really cool occasion yesterday morning, about 3 o’clock. We had our first panic session,” Murphy told ESPN. “It was just the three of us at 3 o’clock in the morning, all freaking out. He was the only one screaming. I wanted to. I wanted to scream and cry, but I don’t think that’s publicly acceptable, so I let him do it.”