A new era of Giants baseball is upon us, and it’s off to a rocky start.
The 2010s yielded three World Series championships, a core of beloved players, and a Hall of Fame manager. The 2020s will begin under the tutelage of former Philadelphia Phillies manager, and new San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler.
The decision on who will replace Bruce Bochy next season was announced Tuesday night and was met immediately with an overwhelming amount of negativity from Giants fans. Introducing their young new manager Wednesday afternoon, the Giants and President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi were faced with the reality that they will have plenty of explaining to do.
If you are unaware as to why Kapler is such a polarizing choice, there are a couple of reasons.
The first reason is simple: His tenure with the Phillies, largely believed to have talent up and down the roster, was disappointing. After two seasons with Philadelphia, Kapler was fired immediately after the 2019 campaign ended.
The second reason is the big one, an incident in 2015 when Kapler was the Los Angeles Dodgers director of player development, and Zaidi was Dodgers general manager.
The story as a whole can be found in this Sports Illustrated piece. The shortened version is that one night, a 17-year old girl was asked to attend a party in a hotel room with two Dodgers minor leaguers and two other women.
Kapler reportedly received an email from the girl’s grandmother saying that her granddaughter had been intoxicated and was beaten up by the two women, while someone in the group recorded it and posted it to social media.
Instead of contacting the police, the story claims Kapler organized a dinner where the victim and the Dodgers players would meet face to face to resolve the issue. The story continues when the victim, a week later, would claim to police that she was sexually assaulted by one of the Dodgers players.
A second instance reportedly occurred when another Dodgers minor leaguer, eight months later at the same Glendale hotel, was accused of sexual violence against a woman on the housekeeping staff. Throughout both of these incidents, the Dodgers did not inform Major League Baseball, and the controversy surrounding Kapler stems from how he reportedly handled both of the situations.
Fast forward to Wednesday, and Kapler was introduced to the media as the next manager of the Giants. After the Giants received backlash when the move was announced the night prior, they faced it head-on Wednesday.
Zaidi is very familiar with Kapler. The two worked together on the Dodgers, and Zaidi began with a lengthy introduction:
“We took the responsibility of choosing our next manager seriously, and we had a terrific pool of candidates. It was really an honor and privilege to get to know the different candidates that we interviewed. … We had some conversations with players and members of the staff, and really wanted to conduct this as a collaborative process.”
As any team would do when interviewing a candidate such as Kapler, they did their homework. Zaidi said he and the Giants talked to many people around baseball, especially those who knew Kapler from his time with the Phillies:
“As part of that process, we reached out to people in the Phillies organization, and frankly, they reached out to us as well to offer their endorsement and support. That was one thing that was very clear to us, was that developing those relationships with both the players and the front office, that was something Gabe did exceptionally well with the Phillies.”
After the initial introduction, Zaidi addressed the elephant in the room:
“I just feel very strongly to state that there was never an attempt to cover anything up. At the same time, for both Gabe and myself, we have used this process to reach out to advocates and people in the community that are experts in this field, and try to understand from their perspective how they viewed those events. I think we both have come to realize that there were things we could have done better.”
After detailing how the issue was handled, Zaidi discussed what went wrong, and what they’ve learned:
“I think what we’ve come to understand is, this is not a situation where the incidents of what you do afterwards are about protecting victims, but really about supporting. I don’t think we did enough in that regard, and I’ve had to reflect on that, and I’m truly sorry that I didn’t do more.”
After Zaidi finished discussing the matter, Scott Harris, the newly-appointed Giants general manager, talked briefly about his perspective regarding the managerial search. Harris went on to reinforce Zaidi’s high praise of Kapler.
After Harris spoke, Kapler made opening remarks, thanking both Zaidi and Harris. Kapler also addressed the Los Angeles incidents, saying he wishes he would have sought advice from his mother during that time:
“I mentioned my mom and dad, they weren’t able to be here today. But I leaned on my mom pretty heavily throughout this process for pretty obvious reasons. I think if I could go back and do some of the Dodgers stuff different, i probably would have called my mom and asked her a few more questions about which steps to take.”
“… I think this is the right time to say I’m sorry that i didn’t make all of the right moves. Everything I did, I acted from a place of goodness in my heart and wanting to do the right thing, but I was naive. I was in over my skis and trying to do things on my own, when it was very clear that I needed counsel, and I needed counsel from people who I’ve met in this community over the course of the last two weeks.”
Kapler went on to address his time with the Phillies, revealing that, throughout the interview process, he was able to seek wisdom from none other than Bruce Bochy himself:
“I’m getting a job very quickly after having some pretty public issues and some things in Philadelphia that didn’t go according to plan, and I don’t take that lightly. … As I went through this process, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with Boch, and it is going to be impossible to fill Bruce Bochy’s shoes, it’s not something that I’m going to set out to try and do. He’s a Hall of Fame manager who is beloved in this city and across baseball for so many appropriate reasons. One of the things we talked about in our conversation, was his second time managing was better than his first time, and he made a lot of adjustments along the way.”
Bringing in Kapler to manage the Giants signifies a new age of managers throughout baseball. Kapler is young and welcomes the use of analytics in decision-making. What Kapler said he wants to bring to the Giants is a mix of information and data, paired with strong relationship building:
“I think one of the things I learned in my time in Philadelphia was how to blend the information we have at our fingertips as decision makers in this sport with some of the confidence building that goes on with our players. … I’m not saying one way or the other is more appropriate, but one of the things I learned was how to blend those things well to inspire the confidence of as many players as possible.”
“Speaking of players, Buster [Posey] is another guy that I was able to get to know during this process, we spent some time together as well. I found Buster to be very attentive, very aware … nobody has a better perspective about what this clubhouse needs and what is going to create energy and enthusiasm and adjustments and accountability in this clubhouse like Buster does.”
The stigma surrounding younger, new-age managers is that they may act as a puppets or yes-men for higher-ups like Zaidi and Harris. Later in the press conference, Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle asked Kapler about what kind of role he will have in decision-making:
“Both of these guys know that I have a fairly strong personality as well. I know the working structure here, I know that I work for Farhan and that i work for Scott and I work for the San Francisco Giants, but I also have very strong opinions, and I’m not uncomfortable expressing those opinions, and I’m not uncomfortable in a debate situation. I think from knowing Farhan and knowing Scott, they don’t just encourage that, but they celebrate it.”
There were certainly tough questions asked, and Kapler’s response to one of them stood out. Tim Kawakami of The Athletic asked Kapler if he believed he was starting in a bit of a hole, and if the backlash matters to him. Kapler responded:
“… yes i feel like I’m in a little bit of a hole, and yes that means something to me. … I don’t think I know everything, I don’t think I’ve made every perfect step, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I think one of the things you’ll find out about me is that I’m pretty good at making adjustments. So when I find out the reason why this maybe isn’t the most popular hire, I want to know what those reasons are, and I want to get better at them. I’ll just dig in and roll up my sleeves and get to work.”
Kapler seemed to answer honestly and genuinely, and the fact that he acknowledges the distaste goes to show this move has been far from normal, and already off to a weird and uncomfortable start.
Kapler’s first year as manager of the Giants should be far from boring. The team is expected to be very active in free agency, and even the trade market. The team that Zaidi and Harris construct, and the lineup that Kapler will deploy on Opening Day should look noticeably different from the Opening Day lineup last season, and even the lineup the team finished the season with.