It was just last year when Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was criticized by idiot mouth-breathers on talk radio for missing Opening Day to attend the birth of his child. In perhaps the lowest moment of this "controversy," former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason recommended Murphy's wife undergo a caesarian section surgery to give birth ahead of time. It was awful.
Cut to a year later, and I'm ecstatic to discover that Indians first baseman Carlos Santana has taken paternity leave to be present for the first couple days of his daughter's life and no one has batted an eye (though, I suppose, it's still early). Now, Santana has seen his production decrease over the last few seasons, and is only hitting .221/.374/.383 on the year.
Meanwhile, at 21-25, no one is paying very close attention to the Indians. Maybe no one cares because no one notices. Still, the right of ballplayers to take time off for family emergencies and for births is not one that was formally and officially recognized until recently, and is one of the best things to come out of baseball's collective bargaining process.
This is good for baseball
It's great, first and foremost, because it acknowledges that the ballplayer is a human being outside of his life on the field. It humanizes him and treats him with the same respect and gives him the same protection that you and I want from our employers.
I think it makes the game more meaningful and interesting when we acknowledge that the guys performing for us 162 times a year aren't robots, or spreadsheets brought to life. Indeed, the complexities of real life do, in fact, intrude on the game from time to time, and add extra wrinkles.
Certainly one would hope that, allowing Santana the chance to be there for his wife and his new daughter reduces potential resentment if he were forced to miss out, and provides significant peace of mind.
There is a practical reason to cheer for this
Just as important, however, is that it formalizes the process of players leaving their teams to deal with births, deaths, or emergencies. Rather than players leaving their teams a man short, the collectively bargained paternity leave policy gives teams the right to call up a replacement for a couple of days to fill the new father's roster spot.
In this case, the Indians recalled outfielder-first baseman Jerry Sands, who has hit .348/.400/.435 in 25 plate appearances this year in the Majors and .257/.385/.473 at triple-A, from Columbus. Not too shabby. Indeed, the Indians are really well positioned so that Santana's absence won't hurt the club significantly.
Meanwhile, Santana—who has been one of the most durable players in the game over the last three seasons—gets a few days to rest his body without hurting his team. There's no urgent need to get him back when Brandon Moss and Sands are fully capable of holding down the fort for a couple games that are, themselves, unlikely to make a difference in the outcome of the season.
The new system is simply better. It's better for the players and it's better for the teams. I'm glad that even the idiots on talk radio seem to have learned that.
On a completely separate note, I want to say how happy I am that Rockies prospect Dave Dahl is going to be ok after surgery to repair a severely lacerated spleen. Dahl, the 22nd ranked prospect in the minors according to Baseball America, had been hitting .269/.296/.379 at Double-A as a 21 year old. He will be out for the rest of the year, which will set back his development, but that doesn't seem terribly important at the moment. The good news is that he will be back on the field, albeit with some kind of special equipment designed to protect his spleen. Baseball is one of the least violent games around, but sometimes awful, life-altering things happen on the field. I'm grateful we live in an age where Dahl is going to be ok.