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Paul Newberry column: Mets’ Murphy has his priorities just right

  • New York Mets' Daniel Murphy stands during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in New York. Murphy is proud he put fatherhood ahead of baseball, and New York Mets manager Terry Collins thinks criticism his second baseman received for taking paternity leave this week was unfair. Murphy made his season debut Thursday three days after the birth of son Noah. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    New York Mets' Daniel Murphy stands during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in New York. Murphy is proud he put fatherhood ahead of baseball, and New York Mets manager Terry Collins thinks criticism his second baseman received for taking paternity leave this week was unfair. Murphy made his season debut Thursday three days after the birth of son Noah. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • New York Mets' Daniel Murphy stands during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in New York. Murphy is proud he put fatherhood ahead of baseball, and New York Mets manager Terry Collins thinks criticism his second baseman received for taking paternity leave this week was unfair. Murphy made his season debut Thursday three days after the birth of son Noah. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    New York Mets' Daniel Murphy stands during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in New York. Murphy is proud he put fatherhood ahead of baseball, and New York Mets manager Terry Collins thinks criticism his second baseman received for taking paternity leave this week was unfair. Murphy made his season debut Thursday three days after the birth of son Noah. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • New York Mets' Daniel Murphy stands during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in New York. Murphy is proud he put fatherhood ahead of baseball, and New York Mets manager Terry Collins thinks criticism his second baseman received for taking paternity leave this week was unfair. Murphy made his season debut Thursday three days after the birth of son Noah. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
  • New York Mets' Daniel Murphy stands during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in New York. Murphy is proud he put fatherhood ahead of baseball, and New York Mets manager Terry Collins thinks criticism his second baseman received for taking paternity leave this week was unfair. Murphy made his season debut Thursday three days after the birth of son Noah. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Looks like we need another primer on priorities.

A new father takes three days off from work to be with his wife during the birth of their first child – a right he’s lucky enough to have under the labor agreement with his employer – and there’s supposedly something wrong with that?

Give me a break!

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy did exactly the right thing when he skipped a couple of April baseball games to tend to his growing family, and anyone who says otherwise has lost all perspective on the difference between sports and the things that really matter.

“We felt the best thing for our family was for me to stay for an extra day,” Murphy said. “Having me there helped a lot.”

If anything, the debate over this issue completely missed the point.

Forget Mike Francesa and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, both ludicrously opining on New York sports talk station WFAN that Murphy should’ve rushed back to his teammates instead of spending as long as possible with his wife Victoria and son Noah.

The real issue is how fortunate Murphy and all major leaguers are to have the opportunity to take three days off when a child is born, fully paid and without any risk of losing their job. It’s right there in the contract between players and owners, no matter what Francesa and Esiason might say. Over the past three seasons, 73 players have taken advantage of it.

Clearly, baseball and other big-league sports are leading the way on this one.

It’s the rest of America that has lots of catching up to do.

Millions of Murphy’s fellow citizens aren’t allowed to take time off for that magical event. Or, if they can, they’re docked the pay they would’ve earned by going to work – a difficult choice in so many households living paycheck to paycheck.

“Family leave is woefully absent in most job places,” said Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas who has studied the issue for more than a decade. “Good on his organization for providing it, and shame on those who would criticize him for using it.”

Murphy, of course, didn’t have to fret over his decision. He could take off whether it cost him or not, given that he’ll earn a hefty $5.7 million playing for the Mets this season.

Taking note of that, Francesa and Esiason were the ones who got it all wrong, contending that Murphy’s prosperity should’ve sent him scurrying back to the Mets at least by their second game, since he could easily afford to hire a nurse or nanny to make things easier on his wife. Of course, they completely missed the point of how special – and frightening – those first few days of a new life can be.

“Anyone who has ever had infants in their household gets this. They understand it’s all hands on deck,” said Parry, the mother of 8-year-old twins. “The fact that there’s a guy stepping up and an organization supporting him in that effort, that’s a place we should all be and want to be.”

Because he was there, Murphy got to experience one of those moments early Wednesday, in the middle of the night, when little Noah needed his diaper changed. The new mother struggled with the task. The new dad arrived to help. There they were, just the three of them, “all freaking out” but relishing one of those snapshots of life they can never get back.

“He was the only one screaming,” Murphy said of Noah, before quipping, “I wanted to.”

Esiason, giving the impression he had picked up a crackpot medical degree since his playing days, even went so far as to suggest that Murphy’s wife should’ve scheduled her cesarean section before opening day, so Daniel wouldn’t have to miss any playing time – as though major surgery and the possible harm it could cause the baby are just an afterthought, nowhere near as important as starting off the season with a victory over the Washington Nationals.

Thankfully, Esiason has since apologized for his gross insensitivity, saying his friends at the March of Dimes reminded him “if a pregnancy is healthy, it is medically beneficial to let the labor begin on its own rather than to schedule a C-section for convenience. In fact, babies born just a few weeks early have double the risk of death compared to babies born after 39 full weeks of pregnancy.”

Francesa stuck to his guns, harkening back to what he apparently considers that glorious era when women raised babies and their men-folk had little interest in what was going on at home.

Apparently, his calendar is still stuck on the 1950s.

“One day I understand,” Francesa said, digging his hole a little deeper. “But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help.”

Actually, the Murphy family doesn’t need any help at all.

They were there to help each other.

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