SAN FRANCISCO — Two years after naming Gabe Kapler the National League Manager of the Year, the Giants are searching for a new leader.
The organization on Friday fired Kapler, who had one year remaining on the extension he signed after the 2021 season. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said that day that committing to “a level of stability and certainty in our ongoing partnership” was a top priority for the Giants, but that didn’t go anywhere. It went well for the organization the next two years.
The Giants, once 13 games above .500, collapsed in the second half and are currently 78-81 and in fourth place in the NL West. Even as the final week began, team officials said publicly and privately that they expected both Zaidi and Kapler to return in 2024, but ultimately, the final two months of the season proved to be so disappointing that someone needed to take responsibility.
Kapler was hired before the 2019 season, and missed the playoffs in three of his four seasons in San Francisco. The exception was 2021, when the Giants won 107 games and stunned the industry by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers for the division title. That earned Kapler an extension, but the Giants finished the following season 81-81, and this year’s collapse was accompanied by public comments from respected players who questioned the organization’s preparedness, energy and commitment to building a winning culture.
The decision comes after a decline in the second half that covered almost all aspects of the game. The Giants were over .500 for most of the summer and just two and a half games out of first place in their division on August 1, but proved unable to win on the road over the next two months, were embarrassed by a crucial late-season road trip, and were eliminated from the wild-card race With a loss on Tuesday.
The Giants have had the worst offense in baseball since the beginning of July, and their defense has taken a step back in recent weeks. They set a record in strikeouts and led the major leagues in errors, and while the pitching was able to keep the rest of the team afloat throughout most of the summer, they ultimately paid for having only two reliable starters.
Even with the lackluster play in August, the Giants entered September in good shape, and Kapler had the support of management. With Wednesday’s loss, the Giants are just 8-17 in September. They just need a win to get to .500, and there’s a strong chance of finishing fourth in their division.
Perhaps the perception that the club’s culture needs to change is one that Al-Zaidi said he would take seriously when appearing on KNBR this week. Earlier in the week, Kapler said he appreciated players speaking out, and agreed with the lack of performance. He said he “definitely” understands the way it all reflects on the man responsible.
“This is my job,” Kapler said. “I definitely wear that. Everything that happens in the clubhouse, everything that happens on this baseball field, that’s what I signed up to be responsible for.”
For Kapler, this is nothing new. He was fired after just two seasons in Philadelphia under similar circumstances, as the team underperformed in September and failed to live up to expectations. Many of the criticisms were the same. He relied heavily on analytics and not on his intuition. He failed to communicate with those around him. He ran a loose ship, and failed to hold players accountable.
Perhaps just as important to ownership, Kapler has had difficulty connecting with the fan base. His initial press conference in 2019 was controversial, and while he was very active in the community, this front office and staff couldn’t resonate the way the previous regime did.
For Kapler, it means a second firing in four years, and for the Giants, it means the second managerial search since Zaidi took over. Four years after Kapler was tapped to take over for Bruce Bochy, Al-Zaidi is looking for a new partner, and doing so knowing he won’t get a third chance.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”