St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal missed the club's series against the San Francisco Giants over the weekend in order to be present for the birth of his daughter. By doing so, Rosenthal became the third member of the Cardinals to take paternity leave during the 2015 season. In April, backup catcher Tony Cruz took paternity leave for the birth of his daughter. Later that same month, outfielder Peter Bourjos went on a leave of absence in order to witness the birth of his son. Few seemed to notice or care that the Cards' fifth outfielder or backup catcher took a few days off in April for the birth of a child. But the closer taking a weekend series off in late August landed on some folks' radars and drew a bit of criticism.
One tweet in particular drew my attention when it appeared in my Twitter feed. It came from John Steigerwald, who is a write of some sort. He once opined that Bryan Stow—who was left comatose after suffering a beating at Chavez Ravine after a San Francisco-Los Angeles game—was to blame because he worse a Giants jersey to Dodger Stadium. Given the degree of enlightenment Steigerwald has previously displayed, you might not be surprised that he is against ballplayers taking paternity leave. His tweet:
Trevor Rosenthal taking 3days paternity leave in the middle of a pennant race is ridiculous & another sign of the wussification of America— John Steigerwald (@Steigerworld) August 29, 2015
This a straightforward tweet. Easy to understand. Steigerwald plainly states that Rosenthal taking paternity leave in the middle of a pennant race is ridiculous. Moreover, according to Steigerwald, it's evidence of the wussification of America.
As you can probably imagine, Twitter did not respond well to this sentiment. And with good reason.
Fathering a child is a life-altering event. It changes one's life as an individual and one's relationship with the child's other parent. You've brought another life into this world and now you're responsible for it. Naturally, then, childbirth is a seminal moment in one's life. Taking time off work to be with the mother of one's child and the newborn is indicative of strong family values. Men should be praised for doing so. Only someone with a twisted set of priorities would attack a man for taking time off work for the birth of his child. And so Steigerwald was immediately placed on the defensive.
Steigerwald staked out a position on shaky ground. Once he discovered the indefensible nature of his position by way of Twitter blowback, he retreated. In doing so, the ostensible sportswriter further revealed that he has no idea about that which he is opines. Steigerwald sent out a string of tweets that attempted to narrow his position. He also took to Facebook, writing a post. I thought we might dissect it together. He begins thusly:
Ok. Let's try this with more than 140 characters. I tweeted earlier that I thought Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal taking THREE DAYS paternity leave in the middle of a pennant race is a sign of the wussification of America.
THREE DAYS .
Steigerwald wants you to know that Rosenthal took THREE DAYS of paternity leave. THREE DAYS. Please remember that because we're going to discuss that number below in more detail. THREE DAYS.
Twitter exploded with moronic responses about how I was saying a baseball game was more important than the birth of a child.
Recall that Steigerwald tweeted: "Trevor Rosenthal taking 3days paternity leave in the middle of a pennant race is ridiculous & another sign of the wussification of America." It seems pretty clear that he believes the Cards' three games in San Francisco this weekend should have been more important to a player than being present for the birth of his child. What's more, he views Rosenthal's decision as indicative of a larger societal problem. But Steigerwald claims this categorization misses his point:
My point is that there was a time....not too long ago....when fathers were not only not expected in the delivery room- they weren't ALLOWED in.
It's not a one size fits all situation.
Of course a father should try to be there for the birth of his child, but it used to be that, when you signed on for certain jobs, you knew that some family sacrifices would have to be made.
Yes, it used to be that way. It is not that way anymore. We'll suss this out in more depth below. Back to his Facebook post:
Some guys would love to be there for all their son's high school football games but he travels a lot or has to work Friday nights.
By choosing to work is he putting job ahead of family?
Not the same as witnessing a birth . . .
Yes, you're right. A father missing a high school football game is nothing remotely close to missing a child's birth. There are nine high school football games in a season and probably 30-40 (depending on freshman and JV schedules and potential playoff games) during a kid's career. A human being is born once. High school football games are not in the same ballpark as birth in terms of life events. They aren't even in the same league or sport. This is what is known as a false equivalency. It makes no sense to draw this comparison in any context ever.
. . . but closers and quarterbacks are not like everybody else. They have billion dollar enterprises counting on them. They are doing great things for their kids and their kids' grand kids by taking a job that keeps them away from their families for long periods of time.
When you agree to accept millions of dollars because of your value to a TEAM, you aren't the same as a guy working a 9-5 job, who can take time off without affecting a million dollar operation.
I said the same when there was discussion about Ben Roethlisberger possibly missing his son's birth.
He should make every effort to be there, but his employer guaranteed him $100 million dollars because he's the most important person in a billion dollar company.
Rosenthal is under club control for 2015; he signed a one-year contract worth $535,000. That's how club control works under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that governs labor relations between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). At this point in time, Rosenthal is not making the type of money that Steigerwald seems to think he is. But Steigerwald's ignorance with respect to Rosenthal's salary misses the point. Under the CBA, a ballplayer has the right to THREE DAYS of paternity leave whether he is making $500 million or $500,000 on his contract.
The MLBPA is the ballplayer union, as you know. The MLBPA negotiates a CBA with MLB owners every four years. When the individuals who negotiate for the MLBPA and MLB reach a tentative deal on the CBA, the draft goes to the owners and MLBPA for a vote. If both parties adopt the CBA, it becomes the legal document that contains the rights of the parties with respect to the MLB workplace. Beginning in 2011, the MLB-MLBPA contract contained a provision that gives every single big-leaguer the right to paid paternity leave. In other words, everyone in the billion-dollar baseball industry, from Rosenthal's fellow players to the owners agreed that ballplayers should have the right to take three days of paternity leave during the season.
Thus, Steigerwald has no idea what he's talking about. He's romanticizing about how, when men sign up for certain jobs, they should sacrifice the right to be present for the birth of their children. He claims that, while some men should be present for the birth of their children, MLB players should not take such time off during the season because of the impact on their organizations. But Rosenthal and every single major-leaguer since 2011 has signed up for a baseball job that includes the contractual right to take three days of paternity leave. And they have that right in part because the owners of their organizations agreed to it. In other words, Steigerwald's position with respect to Rosenthal's decision to take paternity leave rests on a foundation of bullshit.
Making Steigerwald's back-peddling display of ignorance all the more incredible is the following:
The act of being there for the birth of a child is not the sign of wussification. I think it's great that a father can do that now.
To me, the sign of wussification is the notion that a man couldn't find himself in a position to honor his Committment to be somewhere else withiut being accused of being a terrible parent.
The insinuation here is disgusting. Steigerwald suggests that Rosenthal was motivated to take paternity leave out of fear that he would be accused of being a terrible parent. In Steigerwald's warped mind, a man would not choose of his own free will to leave his ballclub for three days during the pennant race in order to be present for the birth of a child. No, concern about criticism due to staying with the team must be the motivation. He does not think that Rosenthal, as a man, would genuinely want to be present for the birth of his child more than in San Francisco playing baseball. This is underscored by his turn of phrase.
Steigerwald claims that Rosenthal missing three games in late August to be present for his daughter's birth is "ridiculous and evidence of the wussification of America." It's watering down of the term "pussification," which obviously uses as its base a slang term for female anatomy. (Further, the term "wussy," from which it derives, is a combination of "wimp" and "pussy.") The term is used to criticize the shifting of gender roles in American culture. Specifically, in the case of Rosenthal, Steigerwald is deploying the phrase to attack Rosenthal's family values and the closer's manhood.
Think about that mindset for a moment. Let it really sink in.
Steigerwald is inferring that men who think being present for childbirth is more important than their job as a ballplayer aren't real men. I'd argue exactly the opposite. A man who takes his responsibilities as a husband and a father seriously enough to go on a leave of absence to be with his wife during labor and hold his newborn after her birth is the epitome of manliness and this country would be better off if more men did so. The family is the backbone of American society. Rosenthal should be praised for his family-first values, not attacked. And MLB should be applauded for allowing its players to be there for their families during the season.
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Correction: The original version of this post stated Rosenthal had a son. He had a daughter. It has been corrected.