By Ernie Palladino
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As if the public doesn’t have enough Mets troubles to talk about, with an 0-3 start and bullpen and lineup problems, the talkies got all over Daniel Murphy for spending two days with his wife after the birth of their son.
The debate raged. Yes, he had a right to take off the Monday and Wednesday games because baseball’s collective bargaining agreement said he could. No, he shouldn’t have taken off because the man makes millions to play a kid’s game, and he should at least honor the game, if not the contract, by at least being there.
Actually, both sides have their points. What they did miss was the era. For a long time now, birthing babies has been a team effort. Husbands have long gone into the delivery room with the wife and the doctors, if only to lend moral support during the trials of labor.
It wasn’t always like that, of course. In the bad old days — pre-1970s — no self-respecting man would have been caught dead in a delivery room. Save for the rare exception, that room was a woman’s place, and she was left there without a cheering section until the baby received its proper introduction to the planet.
C-Section or natural, that’s how things were. The man sat in the waiting room. Or, in an even earlier era, he went off to the job and waited for a call. By the way, there were no cell phones in those days, so he hung near a land-line that day.
Society began to change, however. The hard-hearted male, the one who would much rather have seen the baby than heard about the labor, vanished. They started showing up in hospitals regularly before someone got the idea to let them into the delivery room. Now, they, too, could witness the miracle of birth.
It became normal for men to take on the job as chief hand-holder and, in the age of Lamaze, breath-counter. Any 60-year-old dad these days was probably sitting ringside for all his children’s births.
Given the social climate, then, is it any wonder why Murphy left his squad for the first two games to welcome his first son, Noah, into the world? The contract money is only a side issue. This is a cultural deal, and even Sandy Alderson recognized it.
When one thinks about it, what good would Murphy have done this squad, anyway? His return to the club Thursday was just in time for him to go 1-for-3 with a walk and two left on base in an 8-2 loss to the Nationals. The Mets scored just two runs in the two games he missed, losing 9-1 and 5-1 on Monday and Wednesday.
Given the Mets’ paucity of bullpen pitching, he was probably more useful at the hospital. After seeing Scott Rice, Jeurys Familia and Carlos Torres transform in two innings Zack Wheeler’s solid 3-2 game into a 8-2 rout Thursday, Murphy probably figured a semi-private hospital room was the safest place to be.
Murphy is good. But he’s no magician. The Mets have far greater problems than their star second baseman getting lost for a couple of games. A lot has to go right for them to recover from getting outscored 22-4 in three games right out of the gate.
Players have been doing this for years now. It’s not like the old days. Women don’t birth their babies alone anymore. Now, it’s a team effort.
Murphy felt being with his own team was more important than the team that affords him his paycheck.
Today’s culture tells us there was nothing wrong with that.
He did the right thing.
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