Paternity leave and defining value

First, a couple of things about me.

My daughter was born seven months and a few days ago, and my only regret about assisting with the delivery is that I don’t have any video documentation. Because I’d really like to experience that again. In slow motion.

I believe that Americans’ hypocrisy about children approaches infinity. For all the talk about family values, we’re one of the child-unfriendliest countries in the (so-called) developed world. This might be measured in many ways, but nearly all the rankings would be the same: at or near the bottom. It’s not that Americans don’t care about American children; it’s just that they care about so many other things more.

If you’ve ever had a child and you’re not wildly wealthy, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Even if you’re actually satisfied with the status quo.

So, just to review: I’ve got an infant at home, and I believe deeply that America’s child-care policies are barbaric, essentially robbing non-wealthy parents of the chance to bond with their children for more than a few days or weeks, as the U.S. is basically the only (again, developed) country without publicly mandated, paid parental leave.

Got all that? Those are just some facts, and some things I believe.

Now I want to talk about Paul Goldschmidt and the Most Valuable Player Award.

A few years ago, I got into a little dust-up with some dust-uppers when I had the temerity to suggest that, if I were a fan of a contending team and that team’s star player took some paternity leave, I might be displeased. Or maybe a better, more specific situation: What if it’s Game 7 of the World Series? Or even Game 1?

In fact, we ran a poll and the split was roughly 50/50 between readers who wouldn’t even question paternity leave in any case, and those who could imagine times when it wouldn’t sit so well.

Generally speaking, it seems we’ve come to a consensus: the world’s a slightly better place when baseball players have the right to paternity leave. Even while acknowledging (I think) that reasonable people might be less than enthusiastic if we’re talking about Game 7. Or Game 1.

But what about this hypothetical? What if a great player was in the middle of a pennant race and took his three days of paternity leave? Again, we seem to have decided as a society that we’re fine with that, and might even encourage the player to spend that time with his wife (or someone else) and new child.

Let’s say you’re not society or even just a fan; rather, you’ve got an MVP ballot, and at season’s end you’ve got a dead heat between two players and one of them was on paternity leave for three days. And his replacement went 1 for 11. And his team lost all three games, ultimately finishing one game out of first place.

Yes, I’m stacking the deck. Inevitably, someone will respond to a hypothetical with this: “I can’t imagine [the hypothetical] actually happening.”

To which I might respond, either you need a better imagination or you just haven’t been paying much attention to professional sports, because supposedly unimaginable things happen with some regularity. The Houston Astros and the New York Mets might well meet in the 2015 World Series, for God’s sake.

I wouldn’t begin to suggest that a voter should knock Paul Goldschmidt down the ballot because he went on paternity leave. Especially because at this point his team’s not going anywhere. But if the Diamondbacks were still in the hunt, I can see a reasonable case for at least considering his time away from the team.

The truth is that players have forever been lionized for spending extra time on baseball: hanging out with their teammates until 2 in the morning, showing up early for extra batting practice before home games, et cetera… and, in the process, spending less time with their families.

I wouldn’t criticize a player for doing that; I’ve certainly neglected loved ones while pursuing my chosen profession. Nor would I criticize a player for eschewing the extra practice and instead spending a couple of extra hours at home before heading back to the ballpark; it’s a long, long season.

My point is that if we’re talking about value, Paul Goldschmidt’s value is slightly lower when he places family above team. It’s a choice that many and perhaps most of us would make, at least from April through September. But if you ask me to assess his value, everything counts. Even this.