New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was ripped this week for, of all things, leaving his team to be with his wife as she gave birth to their first child.
Granted, it was really only Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesca questioning his choice, but these are two guys with a very big, New York-radio pulpit on WFAN and that outweighed the silliness of the controversy. They expressed their dismay after Murphy left Sunday to be with his wife in Florida rather than at Citi Field when their son was delivered via an unscheduled C-section just before the first pitch of Monday’s season opener. On Thursday, Murphy rejoined the team and responded to the suggestion by the amateur obstetricians that the couple should have taken care of the matter of bringing their child into the world before the season opener.
“I got a couple of text messages about it, so I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I didn’t hear about it,” Murphy said (via ESPN), “but that’s the awesome part about being blessed, about being a parent, is you get that choice. My wife and I discussed it, and we felt the best thing for our family was for me to try to stay for an extra day — that being Wednesday — due to the fact that she can’t travel for two weeks.
“It’s going to be tough for her to get up to New York for a month. I can only speak from my experience — a father seeing his wife — she was completely finished. I mean, she was done. She had surgery and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off. … It felt, for us, like the right decision to make.”
MLB began offering players three days of paternity leave in 2011, but Esiason and Francesa, on WFAN, created a stir nonetheless. Esiason, a former NFL player, perhaps forgot that a baseball season has 10 times as many games as an NFL season when he said on his “Boomer and Carton” show: “Bottom line, that’s not me. I wouldn’t do that. … I would have said ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day.’ I’m sorry. This is what makes our money, this is how we’re gonna live our life. This is gonna give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”
Easy for him to say. He wasn’t the one having abdominal surgery and, on Friday morning, he apologized. Francesa was no less understanding than Esiason initially. “I mean, what would you possibly be doing?” Francesa had said. “I guarantee you’re not sitting there holding your wife’s hand. One day, I understand. Go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a major league baseball player, you can hire a nurse.”
Murphy said his wife wanted him to get back to New York to play.
“I can only speak to our experience and it felt, for us, like the right decision to make was for me to stay a little bit longer. … I think I had paternity leave until Friday. She was the one who was rather insistent. She wanted me to come back. I wanted to, too, but the pull of her and your son makes you want to stay with them.”
Twenty years have passed since the then-Houston Oilers fined offensive tackle David Williams for missing a game because his wife had given birth the night before, but maybe not so much has changed. Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback, raised the debate in the fall of 2012 when he said he’d miss a game if he had to in order to be with his wife when she gave birth. And he’s the quarterback … of a team that has only 16 games.
Esiason was contrite in a lengthy apology, saying in part:
“I just want to say again on this radio show that in no way, shape or form was I advocating anything for anybody to do. I was not telling women what to do with their bodies. I would never do that. That’s their decision, that’s their life and they know their bodies better than I do. And the other thing, too, that I really felt bad about is that Daniel Murphy and Tori Murphy were dragged into a conversation, and their whole life was exposed. And it shouldn’t have been.
“And that is my fault. That is my fault for uttering the word ‘C-section’ on this radio station. And it all of a sudden put their lives under a spotlight, and for that I truly apologize. I tried to reach out to Daniel yesterday through intermediaries over there at the New York Mets, and to his credit, he answered all of his questions yesterday. I’m sorry that he had to go through that. No man should have to go through that. And certainly Daniel Murphy, who we both admire much as a baseball player as anybody else — and all I can say is that I truly, truly, feel terrible about what I put them through. So for that I certainly apologize.”