How’s your Saturday going? Good? I hope so. Anyway, Jon Heyman is trying to ruin it, and I’m going to help him with that:
Sources: #SFGiants will interview Gabe Kapler. SF baseball prez Farhan Zaidi loves him when they were together with #Dodgers— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 12, 2019
Yes, the Giants are going to talk with Gabe Kapler about their managerial opening. The Phillies fired Kapler on Thursday, after he compiled a 161-163 record for them as their manager. Before that, he was the Dodgers’ Director of Player Development, which is where Farhan Zaidi comes in; as Heyman says, Farhan “loves him” and would presumably like very much to work with Kapler again.
Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic brought up Kapler’s name (subscription required) before he was even fired, in a very “Read between the lines of what Farhan is saying” kind of way. When Farhan said:
“What we’ve seen with managers is that there’s a learning curve, not just within an individual managing experience, but a lot of times guys do better and have more traction their second time around because of the lessons that they’ve learned.”
Here’s what Baggarly took it to mean:
The subliminal message couldn’t have been clearer if Kevin Nealon sidled up next to you and whispered “Gabe Kapler Gabe Kapler Gabe Kapler Gabe Kapler” in your ear.
So we have a pretty good idea that Kapler has been one of Farhan’s targets for a while. And there are reasons that the hire wouldn’t be an unequivocally bad idea. With the Dodgers, Kapler got raves for his ability to work and communicate with players, his preparation, and his willingness to adopt unconventional methods to push the farm system to be its best. Those are important qualities for a team desperate for contributions from young players, and he’d certainly be a good bet to work well with Farhan.
With the Phillies, while Kapler (and pitching coach Chris Young) alienated the pitching staff, he had the support of Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto for his work in the clubhouse. And although the team had a disappointing 2019, that wasn’t entirely Kapler’s fault either; the Phillies were hit hard by injuries this year, and the front office didn’t bring in the depth required to weather the storm. When a manager has to put bad players in the game, the game tends to go badly, whether the manager is Gabe Kapler or John McGraw. The front office recognized that too; Phillies GM Matt Klentak, who did not get fired, advocated for Kapler to keep his job, only to be overruled by team owner John Middleton.
However, and you knew there was a big however coming, there are also a couple of flags that are fire engine red.
First off, let’s talk about Kapler alienating the pitching staff, which I casually dropped as an aside two paragraphs ago. As detailed by The Athletic’s Matt Gelb and Meghan Montemurro, Kapler, in his enthusiasm to embrace advanced stats, fired pitching coach Rick Kranitz after the 2018 season and promoted Chris Young. Young’s analytics-driven strategies did not work out, with the team dropping from 7th in the majors in FIP in 2018 to 24th in 2019. Kapler strongly advocated for Young, also fired on Thursday, who was ineffective and had a poor relationship with his pitching staff.
Kapler was also a central player in a Dodgers scandal that only became public after he was a year into his stint with the Phillies. In early 2015, a 17-year-old girl told Kapler in an email that she had gotten drunk with two Dodgers minor leaguers, and had later been physically assaulted by two women who were in a hotel room with them. The girl later told police that one of the Dodger players had sexually assaulted her in the hotel room
Kapler did not go to the police about the physical assault and insists that he was never told about the sexual assault. In February, he claimed to the Washington Post that he followed advice given by the team’s lawyer and HR department.
In all, it’s hard to see Gabe Kapler being the ideal manager of the future. But Farhan Zaidi knows him better than we do, and we’ll see soon enough if he taps Kapler to be his manager in San Francisco.