Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rooting Against a Rubio Trade


By Isaac Huss




















For a single, 31-year-old diehard Twins fan, trade deadlines are basically like Valentine’s day. You’re never unaware that it’s happening, and once every few years there’s someone new in your life that warrants your attention (the name Shannon comes to mind..Shannon Stewart, that is), but typically it comes and goes without so much as a raised eyebrow.


Then consider that the NBA closes trade season in mid-to-late February, and you’ll begin to understand why my unhealthy and irrational 7-year love affair with Ricky Rubio feels a bit threatened this time of year. Imagine my trepidation when the late great Flip Saunders (RIP) and now Tom Thibodeau are dangling the Babe from Barcelona into the trade waters, hoping someone, something would bite.


It was already about all that I (and my Twitter feed) could take when ESPN’s Brian Windhorst made it very clear that Thibs was trying to move Ricky, and that was long before Rubio dramatically started social media flirting with Kristaps Porzingis (he’s mine, Zingis).


I tried to quit Rubio, I did. I was convinced at the end of last year that, even as the team was making improvements, Ricky’s wasn’t. This was most obvious in the open jump shooting and finishing at the rim categories, of course. But it was his tendency to tense up and force bad passes and shots as the game tightened that was as much of a concern as any. After all, there are five guys on the court, and only one of them needs to shoot. But if one of them can’t shoot and can’t pass or make simple decisions about whether to do one or the other, well, then, the writing’s on the wall.


I also started to allow my heart to stray towards another: Kris Dunn. I was convinced by the draft lottery in May that Dunn was definitely the third-best player in the draft at worst. His combination of playmaking and scoring along with aggressive, physical defense had me dreaming about another favorite point guard of mine: Gary Payton. And while the Wolves staying at #5 wasn’t terribly promising in its likelihood of netting Dunn, I wasn’t without hope that he would fall to the Timberwolves at #5, and by golly he did.


Almost immediately, Woj bombs started dropping all around me claiming that Rubio was surely to be traded sooner rather than later, and just as immediately I had regretted my role in coveting Dunn. I should have known that Thibs would see Dunn as his guy and that Rubio would have to go. I was naive, in hindsight, to think we could draft Dunn and have him and Rubio coexist like Isiah and Dumars, hell even Ricky and Johnny (Flynn). After all, Jamal Murray was still available, and while I considered him a hair below Dunn based primarily on the defensive discrepancy between them (in favor of Dunn), I would now have preferred Murray if only it meant filling a more obvious need while more importantly not displacing Rubio, my love.


Well, to the surprise of just about everybody, Rubio not only survived that draft night in the blue and green but also the rest of the offseason, and was the opening day starter to kick off the 2016-17 season. But not even Dunn’s atrocious start to his NBA career could seem to dim Thibodeau’s affinity for him and subsequently his desire to unload Rubio to free up the starter position in the near--if not immediate--future.


Fast forward to the 2017 NBA trade deadline and you had all the makings of a Rubio trade: the lingering stench of the Reggie Jackson rumor (pull my hair back?), the less nauseating but not much more palatable Iman Shumpert rumor, and then the newest and sexiest but no less head-scratching, the Derrick Rose (and Joakim Noah) rumor, complete with Ricky and Kristaps sitting in a Twitter tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.


You had Thibodeau effusing praise upon Dunn for months without giving Rubio a whiff of a vote of confidence, even though Ricky is by far the greatest veteran presence on the team (and it’s not even close) and has been showing real signs of turning a corner in terms of running Thibs’ offense, posting an incredible assist-to-turnover rate--despite some of the greatest degree of difficulty passes in the L--and even individual shooting-wise improvements.


The ultimate test of irrational fandom for a favorite individual player on a favorite team is how you would feel if he was traded away in an obviously beneficial trade scenario for your team (and even for your favorite player). For instance, if Ricky were to be traded to Indiana along with Shabazz, Brandon Rush, a number 1 and a number 2 draft pick for Paul George and Monta Ellis, that would be an objectively amazing trade for the hometown Timberwolves that might even make New Orleans blush.


But, admittedly, I would have a hard time getting excited about a trade like that, even in all its glory, but for the sole fact that it would mean Rubio would be leaving town. Even now, if I know Rubio isn’t going to be playing (like when he missed five games in November), I’m significantly less excited to watch even the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine. It’s a problem, I know.


There’s just something about the way the man plays the game. He plays hard every minute. He never takes a play off on offense or defense. He’s constantly communicating with his teammates and coaches, on offense and defense, even in fleeting glances that set up jaw-dropping alley-oops or 70-foot leak outs. As Bill Simmons described his experience watching Larry Bird in The Book of Basketball, Rubio changes the way you watch the game. You start to see what he sees: plays developing ahead of time; open passing lanes before they open; hell, you even expect other NBA players to give their all like Rubio does, which is, shall we say, not typical.


Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Rubio’s play, however, is that he is so relatable. He’s certainly taller, longer, more Spanish, and better looking than most of us, but by all accounts, he’s a slow white guy who can’t jump or shoot. He plays with incredible emotion and leaves his heart on his sleeve. He tells teammates, “Change your face.” He cheers on the third-string point guard when he hits the game-winning shot after he supplanted Rubio himself in the crunch time lineup. What Rubio feels, we feel.


And, best of all--from a Timberwolves standpoint, anyway--Andrew Wiggins has shown himself more than capable of being the primary ball handler and setting up the offense (oftentimes himself) during crunch time. Not that I would ever prefer Rubio to stand in the corner spotting up during any set offensive play (ever), mind you.


But it does serve two purposes: 1. Starting the offense with Wiggins prevents teams from denying Wiggins the ball late in the shot clock and 2. It serves to help the team (and its fans) to avoid repeating the debacle against the Clippers four years ago when Kevin Martin had his pocket picked clean by Jamal Crawford when Martin was trying to bring the ball up the floor in the key play that helped turned a huge Timberwolves win into a crushing loss.


No, Rubio is no longer the liability in the clutch that he once was. He’s more of a threat with his shooting, and that seems to have bolstered his confidence and helped his ability to make the right pass with the game on the line. And, when he has an off game, Tyus Jones has shown the ability (as mentioned earlier) to step in and knock down shots when called upon.


So I’ll go to sleep tonight and rest easy knowing the trade talk has died down, that Thibs said he doesn’t see a trade that would improve his team (and those who heard him actually believe him), that he’s happy with his team as-is, and that we’ll likely have another Minnesota trade deadline come and go without anyone to show for it.

But until that 2pm deadline passes, I won’t be able to help still sweating it out, knowing that my favorite player, Ricky Ricard Rubio Vives may be slangin' his passes elsewhere--if not this week, then soon enough. And I’ll be sad. Like a jealous lover.

This post was amended on 2/23/2017 to account for the author's incorrect reporting of his own age.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

STATUES OF LIMITATIONS

Celebrate imperfect athletes or withdraw fan club membership?

By Isaac Huss


My favorite athlete as a child, hands-down, was Kiiiiiiirby Puuuuuuuckett. I was a rather impressionable six year old during the 1991 World Series, and boy did he leave an impression. Imagine my sublime delight, then, when I found out that I had been chosen to appear in a promotional poster along with my idol when I was seven (!). The poster was to advertise for the Kirby Puckett Eight-Ball Invitational in support of Children’s HeartLink, his preferred charity. Yeah, I had some modest success as a child model/actor, and while I had the fortune of appearing in a few other higher-paying spots, you couldn’t have paid me to stay away from this one.


Kirby showed up late, hardly said boo to me, and the poster never saw the light of day, thanks to an apparent dispute between the charity and Puckett’s wife. All things considered, I got my signed baseball, a meeting with my hero, and couldn’t have been happier. But it was the first time I realized that these sports stars I adored were not perfect, and it wouldn’t be the last time a dispute involving Mrs. Puckett caused me to think twice about idolizing her husband. But more on that later.


Selective Memories


Last Sunday, March 6 marked the ten-year anniversary of his death. Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis StarTribune wrote a nice column reminiscing about Puckett through the eyes of former Twins teammate and longtime radio broadcaster Dan Gladden. He also said this: “We prefer to remember the great times and great laughs with Puck, rather than the public troubles that surfaced in the final 2 ½ years of his short life.”


I’d like to as well. In fact, I rarely prefer to remember the bad times I’ve undergone or witnessed of others. And the purpose of reliving these memories here is not to beat a dead horse, nor to color a dead man’s legacy.


Instead, I’m seeking something else: clarity. As in, what do I make of these conflicting sentiments that I harbor, essentially simultaneously, in my mind and heart? How do I reconcile the fact that perhaps my favorite athlete of all time was also, at least at times, a terrible human being? That even when he was at his most publicly likable he was very possibly also his most privately despicable? Is any reconciliation possible?


A Star for the People...


In the years following that magical 1991 season, Kirby’s play remained at a very high level, although his team went on the decline. That made him all the more endearing, really, as his greatness was even more impressive compared to his teammates and the overall state of the franchise. But then again, his numbers would have stood out on any team. After all, through his first ten seasons, he produced more hits than anyone in the modern era.


But of course the numbers couldn’t possibly tell the whole story. People adored Kirby. There was just something about him that endeared people to him: teammates, coaches, and fans alike.


So when his 12th major league season was cut short because of a pitch he took to the face, we were all crushed. When he was forced to retire the following season because of an irreversible case of Glaucoma, it hurt. The weird thing, though, was that we hurt for Kirby as much as anything.


...Now a Falling Star


But none of that compared to the gut-check I experienced when I learned about the accusation against him of sexual assault, and then subsequently of domestic abuse of his wife (and mistress too). Because Kirby wasn’t just a great player. He was a great guy. That was a huge reason he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, because he was a humanitarian, a community-builder, and a great friend. Or so we were told.


In Frank Dedford’s landmark column, The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett, the author recounts with great candor how Kirby somehow won our hearts with a sparkling public persona and meanwhile, behind closed doors, was abusing his wife--when he wasn’t cheating on her, that is.


Not quite three years later, Kirby passed away after suffering a massive stroke. But it was as if he was already gone. His weight had gotten out of hand to the point where he hardly looked like himself, and the public fallout of his criminal transgressions had led him to leave Minnesota, where he had made his home since first coming up in the big-leagues in the mid-1980’s.


Tarnished Legacies or Revisionist History?


Last Monday, March 7, Peyton Manning retired from the NFL. Had he retired a year earlier, or even after his numerous neck surgeries left his career in the balance, he could have ridden off into the sunset a first-ballot Hall of Famer himself and with his pristine reputation as all-american man intact. Sure, he would only have one of his now-two Super Bowl wins, but he also would have retired before being famously accused of using performance-enhancing human growth hormones which were delivered to his residence under his wife’s name. He also would have dodged the re-emerging of a scandal from his college days at the University of Tennessee, where he was accused of sexually harassing a female trainer.


Manning’s statistical greatness as an NFL quarterback is unquestioned. But should we now remember him differently? After all, his likability (not to mention marketability) from his championship Manning family pedigree to his aw shucks good guy reputation has been larger than life--and maybe just as impressive as his playing heroics. As it is now, there simply can be no comprehensive overview of his legacy without mention of scandal. But heaven forbid he were to be more credibly linked to HGH, much less formally charged?


I’ve rooted for Peyton Manning from time to time, although never if he was facing my Vikings. I’ve also rooted for Adrian Peterson (still do), Darren Sharper, the Love Boaters, Onterrio Smith… the list of Vikings with spotted reputations is lengthy. Chuck Knoblauch. Latrell Sprewell. I hope Johnny Manziel makes a comeback. Does this make me a terrible person? Or a forgiving one? Or both?


That doesn’t mean I root for players and teams indiscriminately. And there’s a big difference between wearing around a Darren Sharper jersey and an Onterrio Smith jersey nowadays, even though both players are now likely be remembered more for their missteps as opposed to anything they did on the field. But what about a Manziel jersey? Would I be pulling for a guy to conquer his demons and live up to his potential? Or implicitly acquitting his (alleged) alcohol abuse and domestic violence? That probably have more to do with my own intentions than anybody else.


But the lingering question for me, then, is the same as it is for Reusse: how should I remember these stars? Can I “choose” to remember someone for what I liked about them? Perhaps the nobler thing would be to do so. Or do we have a moral obligation to remember the missteps as well, so as to not be doomed to repeat history?


Times They Are a-Changin’


In this new world of 24 hour news cycles, social media, and secular yet hyper-moralism, we may not even have the option to choose to remember the great times we *shared* with these athletes without also simultaneously remembering their sins. This will certainly keep us from forgetting their moral frailty, sure. But to what end?


It was the late Cardinal Francis George who observed in 2003 that, “In the United States, everything is permitted, even encouraged: 'Go for it, try it, do it,' and we are urged, no matter what the 'it' might be. But, while everything is permitted, practically nothing is forgiven.”


We give these professional athletes everything: fame, fortune, power, and moral license (within the law, of course), and rush to worship at their altars as soon as they wow us with their talent and athleticism and finish on top in our championship rounds. We’ll even, for the most part, accept their physical limitations if they let us down on the battlefield (with some exceptions; see Blair Walsh for a recent example).


And we rightly distinguish between moral missteps and athletic failings. But what about true forgiveness? Which, of course, is not the same as, “Well, he’s on my team and he’s better than our other options at running back, so I’ll ignore the fact that he still doesn’t seem to think he did anything wrong.”


To this day 34 is still my favorite number. I wore it proudly in any sport it was available, including a brief but forgettable high school varsity basketball career. If people ask “Why 34?” Well, it all started with a man named Kirby Puckett. Although Herschel Walker had something to do with it too, as did Isaiah Rider. I thought the best player on the team wore 34 and by the time I found out it was merely coincidence that those players all chose the same number, it was too late. Much later did I realize Kirby Puckett wasn’t the perfect player from whom to inherit a number.

But then again, is any?

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Love Letter

Dear Kevin,


I didn’t sleep much last night, and, well, you’ve been on my mind a lot lately.  So perhaps telling you how I feel, or at least putting these feelings into words, will help me to rest a little bit easier.


It’s been a tough couple of months, to be honest.  Since it became clear back in May that you wanted to leave, I’ve gone through what seems to be the usual string of emotions.  First, denial: I didn’t believe it was true, didn’t want to believe it.  Then, anger.  Then, sadness and resignation.  And now, well, I just feel numb.


It didn’t help when you visited Boston.  I guess I never thought about what it’d be like to see you with someone else.  But there you were, hanging with Rajon Rondo, Rob Gronkowski, and who knows who else.  Let me tell you, Kevin, it hurt.  There’s just no way around it.


I’ll never forget the day you came into my life.  Sure, I’d known about you, known that you were a high school phenom in Oregon and a star freshman at UCLA.  But it wasn’t until June 27, 2008, my 23rd birthday, when Kevin McHale traded for you and our lives really began together.  You were the best birthday present a guy could ask for, really.


I admit, I wasn’t convinced, at least initially.  I really wanted Derrick Rose or Mike Beasley, but O.J. Mayo was a stud himself, and #3 was the highest we’ve ever picked, and we needed a stud.  I wasn’t sure he was worth giving up for you, but hey, we got Mike Miller out of the deal and got rid of Marko Jaric, so I was in (even if it meant Marko’s gf wouldn’t be around).


But you eventually won me over, first with your efforts on the boards and then your outside shooting.  That night when you grabbed 30 rebounds to go along with 30 points, the Target Center was a different place.  There was an energy that had not been enjoyed since the days of that other Kevin.  For a little while there, you made us forget about the other Kevin.  I really mean that.


When a man fills up the boxscore to historic proportions, night after night, when he plays a key role on an Olympic Gold Medal team (defensively, even!), when all inclinations are that he’ll sign a long term contract where nobody wants to sign a long-term contract, it’s hard not to fall in Love.


And I did, Kevin, I fell for you.  Hard.  And that’s what makes this hurt so bad.


And since we’re being honest, it was Love that made me overlook your imperfections.  The lackluster effort on defense.  The complete unwillingness to foul somebody.  The multiple possessions a game where you didn’t bother to cross half court to join your team on defense.  The curious habit of the best rebounder in the game excusing himself from offensive rebound opportunities on opponents’ free throws, in order to get to the other end of the court without having to… jog?


Not to mention your complete unwillingness to pass up a somewhat uncontested jump shot to pass to a more-open teammate.  More forgivable, given that none of your teammates could hit a jump shot, even a more-open one.  But still.


No, I knew you weren’t perfect.  And sure, there was a sneaking feeling that you were a player capable of incredible stats yet incapable of helping his team finish in the top 16 out of 30 teams.  But you were a Timberwolf, and I loved you for it.


But I started getting worried when you complained about the $60+ million contract you signed in January 2012, almost as soon as you signed it.  I get it, you wanted a fifth year.  But it seems like an either-or proposition to me.  As in, either you sign a contract with the team and pledge your allegiance to it, or you don’t, and then you can talk all the shit you want.


Instead, you signed the contract, then explained how you would play with a chip on your shoulder, a phrase typically referring to proving enemies wrong, not your employer.  That following December, you curiously decided to air out your dirty laundry to Yahoo! Sports about the contract negotiation, team roster moves, and even your hurt feelings when people in the organization supposedly didn’t buy that your broken hand came from those now-infamous knuckle push-ups.


Let me let you in on a little secret, Kevin: nobody buys that your broken hand came from knuckle push-ups.  And yeah, we were pissed.  But we got over it.  And, believe it or not, we could get over this.


What’s “this” you say?  Let me be clear: I don’t want you here against your will.  If you do indeed walk out that door and out of my life forever, it would hurt.  But I can’t make you Love me, if you don’t.  Just show some respect along the way, bro.  This organization traded a top-3 pick for you (Mayo), traded away an all-star caliber player (Al Jefferson) to put you in the driver seat, paid you over $43 million, and would be happy to pay you the rest of the $31+ mil left on your contract, and then some.


The “this” that I’m talking about, that we could get over, is you dissing us, the fans! NBA basketball is a business, yadda yadda yadda, and the Timberwolves aren’t going to have anybody feel sorry for them.  But we fans have had your back for the past six years.  And it’s our hard-earned cash that ultimately pays your contract.


So far, you seem to have forgotten about us.  In an interview in LA last month, you said, “In six years I haven't been in the playoffs, and I think it's time for people to be watching me.”  Hey, Kevin, what are we, chopped liver?  We’ve been watching you for six years.  Cheering for you, even.  And yeah, we noticed you haven’t made the playoffs.


We’ve had to endure you talking about the Timberwolves as “they” and you fielding questions about how desirable such locations as New York and Cleveland (!) would be for you.  How was your trip to Boston, Kevin?  I hear Big Papi was offering advice on making the move there from Minny.  Maybe he can help you find some steroids too???  (I’m sorry, Papi, I didn’t mean that, honest.  This is just a tough time for me.  You know, with Kevin and everything…)


On SportsNation, you said that you received some advice.  And if that advice was for you to get out of Minnesota, I can’t find any fault in that.  It’s a free country, there’s probably more endorsement money to be made elsewhere, and there are definitely better teams out there.  And then there’s the winter…


But at what cost?  Was that advice to weasel your way out of your contract a year early, abandon your teammates and insult them on the way out, and all the while seem completely oblivious to the big “f--- you” you’re giving to your loyal and supportive fanbase?  I sure hope not.  If it was, you need to find somebody else from whom to take advice.


Eff yous notwithstanding, I still care about you, Kevin, so I’m going to offer you some free advice of my own.  Look yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you signed a contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and by extension, their fans.  Request a trade, sure.  And if you have beefs with the organization, then by all means, take it up with them.


But here’s an idea: play out your contract!  Put in your work without being a complete baby about it.  Leave it up to the team as to whether they want to risk losing you in free agency.  The Wolves will likely be better this year, and guess what, they’ll pay you over $15 million bucks either way.


If not?  You do still owe something to the fans, and we’re not asking for much.  If you’re sick of losing and missing the playoffs, you don’t think that’s going to change, and you want to play somewhere else?  Fine.  We get it.  We’re sick of the losing, too, and can’t quite blame you.  Just don’t play the martyr.  As Flip put it best, “you’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution.”  And as Marcellus Wiley was fair to point out, don’t hide behind your agent.  You make the decisions, so stand behind them.


And do yourself a favor.  If you do end up with a new team, play some defense.  Don’t take plays off.  Work on your body language, and consider the team to be greater than yourself.


And, hey, did you hear about our new draft pick?  He went to UCLA and Flip calls him the best athlete in the draft, even if he is a bit of a project…  Oh, never mind.

But one last thing: if you ever run into Stephon, have him call me?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fatherhood and Baseball, in that Order


I grew up watching NFL football in the mid-nineties, back when Norman Julius Esiason’s nickname, Boomer, spoke more to his strong arm as a quarterback than to his pontificating on sports talk radio.

Regrettably, I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him in utero, when he apparently received the nickname from Mama Esiason.  According to the New York Times, it was his prolific prenatal kicking that made him Boomer.

It’s unclear as to whether said kicking was truly an effort to encourage labor at an earlier time or if it was just to call attention to himself.  Which is not unlike his recent rant against New York Mets infielder Daniel Murphy’s decision to miss the first two games of the baseball season.

On April 2, Esiason’s co-host, Craig Carton, bemoaned the fact that the Mets had to call up a minor league replacement as they awaited Murphy’s return from paternity leave.  Carton clarified that Murphy’s wife gave birth on Monday (around noon) and it would have been legitimate, in his mind, to miss the game that day.

However, especially since the Mets’ second game was not until Wednesday, Carton wondered aloud about the legitimacy of Murphy missing Wednesday’s game as well.  “I mean, what are you doing?” Carlton said.

Esiason then took it a step further: “Quite frankly, I would have said ‘C-section before the season starts, I need to be at opening day…’”  His explanation had something to do with being able to send his kids to college.  In conclusion, Boomer said, “Get your ass back to work.”

Esiason has since offered a statement to apologize.  And, as far as predictable and presumably involuntary apologetic statements go, this one seemed fairly sincere:
My deep apologies to both Daniel and Tori Murphy for creating an intrusion into a very sacred and personal moment in their lives, and that’s the birth of their son, Noah. Daniel is the Mets’ second baseman, whose brief paternity leave led to a flippant and insensitive remark that I sincerely regret. (In the) meantime, I’m very grateful to my many friends over at the March of Dimes who graciously reached out and re-educated me that if a pregnancy is healthy, it is medically beneficial to let the labor begin on its own rather than to schedule a C-section for convenience. In fact, babies born just a few weeks early have double the risk of death compared to babies born after 39 full weeks of pregnancy. As their promotional campaign says, ‘Healthy babies are worth the wait.’ And as a proud father, I couldn’t agree more.” ( From CBS Local)
In fact, I must admit I was fairly impressed by the depth of his apology.  He went past the threshold of “I’m sorry if you were offended” and went on to explain exactly where he felt he had offended and even sought to remedy his wrongdoing with education.  Perhaps some of us are more aware than others about the inherent risks associated with major surgeries, but that’s another story.  Again as far as politically-correct sorrys go, bravo.  Truly.

What’s still unresolved, however, is what seems to me to be a curious cluelessness regarding the point of paternity leave, particularly in reference to Carlton’s intimation that any time off “now that she’s had the baby,” is essentially overkill.

“There’s nothing you can do anyway,” he says.  “You’re not breastfeeding the kid.”

To Boomer’s credit, he initially defends Murphy by saying he has the legal right to take some time off.  But it’s then that he proceeds to give his endorsement of elective Cesareans.

Believe it or not, an additional, unassociated New York-based sports radio host is also struggling to comprehend what good a little old man can be to a woman and their child she had just delivered.

Mike Francesa, also a nationally-renowned sports personality, called paternity leave a “gimmick” and a “scam” while discussing the Murphy story on his own show.  “I guarantee you are not sitting there holding your wife’s hand. . . . I had three kids. . . I was at the birth and was back to work the next day. I didn’t see any reason not to be working. Harrison [Francesa’s son] was born at nine in the morning. I worked that day. What was I gonna do, sit with my wife in the hospital?”

What seems to be the sticking point for Carlton, who to my knowledge has not apologized or taken back any of his statements, as well as Francesa, who has publicly refused to do either, is that yeah, while everybody likes a few days off, there’s nothing specific to childbirth that merits a man excusing himself from work any longer than it takes to witness the birth itself.

Carlton and Esiason did mention the role a father would play in setting up a “support system” as something he could nobly do within the 24 hours they have allotted by virtue of their sports radio authority.   Hell, Francesa even said, “You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help.”

Hmmm.  I don’t know, guys, I think I’m really starting to believe that “there ain’t nothing to do,” as Carlton says, so don’t try to convince me that the woman might need help.  Sounds like a gimmick.  Maybe even a scam!

Of course, what’s been missing from most of this conversation is, you guessed it, the woman.  I’m not sure I need to take the time here to explain how a man could be helpful in the days immediately after childbirth.  But if any of our aforementioned radio heads want to know, they could probably just ask the women who have given birth to their children.  As the saying goes, better late then never.

More broadly, though, what’s really at stake here is fatherhood.  Is a man a father simply by impregnating a woman?  In the literal sense, yes.  But anyone who’s ever had a father worth the name--or moreover, anyone who’s never had anything more a literal father--can tell you that fatherhood doesn’t end with a sexual act.  That’s merely when fatherhood begins.  Our at least should.

So bravo to Major League Baseball for instituting its 3-game paternity list policy in 2011 (yes, Murphy only missed two games), which allows its players to step away from their professional duties and focus on their fatherly duties.  Even if that means (gasp) simply sitting with their wives in the hospital.

But of course fatherhood is more than that.  It’s even more than changing diapers in the middle of the night.  But that’s definitely part of it, as Murphy has learned firsthand.

"We had our first panic session,” Murphy explained to reporters once he’d returned from leave.  “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."