ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Now, a new Major League Baseball policy that has nothing to do with performance-enhancing drugs. It has to do with babies. Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis celebrated the birth of his second child last week. And he became the first Major Leaguer to go on official paternity leave.
Joining me now is Rob Neyer, who covered baseball for ESPN.com for nearly 15 years and is now the national baseball editor for SB Nation. Thanks and welcome.
Mr. ROB NEYER (Sports Blog Nation): Glad to be here.
SIEGEL: And I have to say that until today, the only connection between baseball and paternity I knew of was Pedro Martinez saying the Yankees were his daddy. When did the paternity leave policy begin?
Mr. NEYER: That began this year, Robert. For some years now, players had been taking time off for childbirth, but it was codified, finally, this season.
SIEGEL: And how much do they get?
Mr. NEYER: They can take 24 to 72 hours.
SIEGEL: Players taking unofficial time off for a new baby isn't new. The Yankees' Mark Teixeira missed a couple of games last year for the birth of his third child. Why would Major League Baseball make paternity leave something official?
Mr. NEYER: Well, I think it's basically to take the decision out of the hands of the team because the player would, technically anyway, prior to this year, would have had to have asked for permission to do that. And I think the union negotiated the policy so they wouldn't have to ask.
SIEGEL: The point here being that it's taken out of the hands of the team ownership, but also, the players, I assume, get paid. That's what this would mean, no, that this is paid leave?
Mr. NEYER: I believe so. I mean, this is - I think this is mostly specific to baseball because baseball's union is so much more powerful than the unions in the other sports. You would never see a quarterback, for example, on an NFL team take a game off for childbirth or anything else, really.
SIEGEL: And the baseball players don't get comp time for pitching on Memorial Day or something like that.
Mr. NEYER: They do not, no.
SIEGEL: Richie Whitt, a Dallas sports blogger, caused something of a stir on the Internet when he criticized Colby Lewis for taking time off, suggesting that baseball players are paid millions, and they ought to show up for their games. What do make of that?
Mr. NEYER: Well, I think he may have taken the argument a little too far, but I do sympathize with it at some point. I mean, if you're a fan of a team, what if it was game seven of the World Series? If you're a fan of that team, do you want your pitcher pitching in that game, the biggest game of the whole season, maybe of your whole life as a fan?
The Rangers last year, for example, made it to the World Series. Colby Lewis was a big reason for that. He beat the Yankees twice in the league championship series. If you're a Rangers fan, you want Colby Lewis pitching against the Yankees in those games, I think.
SIEGEL: The game seven argument is - I understand that one, but we should point out it is April still.
Mr. NEYER: It is April, no question, and it's - the odds are against that one game that Colby Lewis missed making the difference at the end of the season, no question about that.
SIEGEL: I can hear - I can imagine the arguments in favor of taking the paternity leave instead. On the other hand, you know, athletes sometimes call themselves warriors, and there are lots of the guys in the service who are on active duty who don't get there for their child's birth.
Mr. NEYER: That's a great point. You know, I've heard the argument: Well, it's just a game. Well, okay, it's a game with $7 billion in revenues last year, where Colby Lewis, for example, is earning $1.75 million this season. So yes, it is a game on the field, but it's much more than that to a lot of people.
SIEGEL: Well, I should say the Dallas blogger, Mr. Whitt, who made that point was trashed on the blogosphere afterwards. Maybe he was just being provocative, huh?
Mr. NEYER: I think he was, and I think I was, too, a little bit in defending him. But, you know, as a longtime baseball fan, I think back to some times in my life where all I cared about was seeing my team win, and I want my guy pitching.
SIEGEL: Well, Rob Neyer, thanks for talking about it with us.
Mr. NEYER: It's my pleasure, thank you.
SIEGEL: That's Rob Neyer, speaking to us from Portland, Oregon, where he is national baseball editor for SB Nation.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.