NEW YORK (AP) — Daniel 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 in Thursday's 8-2 loss to Washington, three days after the birth of son Noah. He called staying in Florida an extra day "the right decision to make" following wife Victoria's cesarean section and said "we felt the best thing for our family was for me to stay."
He learned Sunday that his wife's water broke, then traveled to Florida and missed Monday's 9-7 opening loss to Washington and Wednesday night's 5-1 defeat. He said his son was born at 12:02 p.m. Monday.
Major league rules allow up to three days of paternity leave, and WFAN broadcaster Mike Francesa said on the air Wednesday that Murphy should not have skipped the second game.
"One day I understand. And in the old days they didn't do that," Francesa said. "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."
Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason also was critical during his show on WFAN.
"Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day, I'm sorry," he said. "This is what makes our money. This is how we're going to live our life. This is going to 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."
A day later, Collins bristled after learning of the comments.
"If you're accusing Dan Murphy of not wanting to play — this guy played 161 games last year, wore himself out, played through all sorts of discomfort," he said. "You know, the man had his first child. He's allowed to be there. The rules state that he can be there, so he went. There's nothing against it. There's nothing wrong with it. You know, he missed two games. It's not like he's missed 10. You know, when you start attacking Dan Murphy's credibility, you need to look in the mirror a little bit."
Murphy said he received text messages about the criticism. He was applauded before his first at-bat, singled and scored the Mets' first run against the Nationals. Murphy went 1 for 3 but also made a throwing error and a fielding error.
"Pretty good at the plate, not so much in the field," he said. "A little sluggish on defense. It was frustrating."
Minnesota Twins left-hander Brian Duensing also returned Thursday after three days on the paternity leave list, and Tampa Bay put outfielder Sean Rodriguez on the list.
"Little did I know I was going to start a national dialogue," Francesa said on the air Thursday. "I never attacked Daniel Murphy," he added, saying his distinction applied if "you have the wherewithal to maybe afford care that some people may not."
"I think two days is plenty, and get back to work," he said.
Murphy said he was happy to hear about people who backed his choice to spend time with his wife and won.
"I appreciate it, anyone who supports me," he said. "My wife and I, we made a decision, and we were excited about it."
Murphy said his son was named after the Biblical character Noah, not for Mets teammate Noah Syndergaard.
"People are going to say you named him after the monstrosity that throws like 1,000 miles an hour," Murphy said. "We didn't. Noah came from Noah's Ark. Peace and rest is what it means."
Baby Noah kept his parents awake at 3 a.m. Wednesday.
"We had our first panic session. It was dark. She tried to change a diaper, couldn't do it. I came in," he said. "It was just the three of us, 3 o'clock in the morning, all freaking out. He was the only one screaming. I wanted to."
NOTES: Murphy took the roster spot of OF Chris Young, who was put on the 15-day disabled list because of tightness in his right quadriceps.