The San Francisco Giants have hired Gabe Kapler. You might not like the hiring, but for better or for worse, that’s not how these things work. Kapler is the Giants manager, regardless of anyone’s thoughts, feelings, or concerns.
But there are concerns; there are lots of concerns. Mainly concerns regarding two controversies Kapler is, at various levels, involved in: an alleged assault that Kapler was informed about and did not report, and an FBI investigation into reprehensible treatment from MLB teams towards international prospects. And the Giants have an obligation to their clientele — which is to say their fanbase — to address those concerns.
Namely, Kapler and the man who hired him, Farhan Zaidi, have to address those concerns, and those questions.
Here are the main ones:
Why was the assault handled — or not handled — the way it was?
This is, of course, the big one. It’s hard to imagine Zaidi and Kapler having an answer for this question that quells all concerns and critiques, but the absence of a perfect answer doesn’t make an answer any less important.
In Spring Training of 2015, Kapler — who was then the director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers — was sent an email from a 17-year old girl. In the email, the girl claimed to have been partying with two other women as well as multiple Dodgers minor leaguers, who were supplying her with alcohol.
After getting drunk, she was physically abused by the other women. The Dodgers players videotaped the ordeal, rather than helping her.
In a testimonial with the police, the victim alleged that one of the players sexually assaulted her while she was drunk.
You can read the Washington Post’s account of the story here, but here’s the crux of it:
Kapler didn’t contact police, records show, nor did others with the Dodgers he consulted. Instead, Kapler tried to arrange a dinner with the girl and the players, and engaged in discussions with the girl’s grandmother.
The next week, the girl’s case manager with Arizona’s Department of Child Safety contacted police. When officers interviewed the girl hours later, according to the report, she offered an even darker account of the evening: Before the beating, the girl told police, one of the Dodgers players had sexually assaulted her as she lay on the bed, struggling to remain conscious.
Those first four words are what the faces of the Giants need to address: “Kapler didn’t contact police.”
It’s why it took four years before we ever heard of the story. It’s why the Dodgers players involved never faced any sort of punishment.
Why didn’t Kapler call the police? That’s a question that he’s only answered with a statement saying he was following team protocol. Frankly, that’s an insufficient answer, and the question needs to be asked again.
Now, there’s good and bad news regarding Zaidi’s view here. He has more information than the public does, vis a vis Kapler and the assault situation. That’s the good news. Perhaps he knows things that we don’t, that paint Kapler as innocent in a story that sure doesn’t depict him as such.
Zaidi knows more about the situation than we do because he was the Dodgers GM at the time. That’s the bad news. Kapler may have been the first point of contact, but it’s hard to concoct a scenario in which the news didn’t float across Zaidi’s desk, only for him to join the tide of complacency.
Farhan Zaidi on Gabe Kapler's past handling of abuse allegations against Dodgers minor leaguers: pic.twitter.com/BrPPanm1oJ— Maria I. Guardado (@mi_guardado) November 13, 2019
As a statement, that checks a box of “addressing the issue”, but in the quest for answers, it’s sorely lacking, on top of which it minimizes the plight of the victim. Centering himself as the figure of the issue and diminishing to the level of an answer you’d give in an interview to the question, “What was a challenging time you faced in a previous job and how did you handle it?” really serves more as a way of distancing the team from the matter entirely.
He needs to answer for his role. What did he know, prior to the report going public? Why didn’t he go to the police? Why was the Dodgers protocol — which apparently avoided law enforcement at all — set up the way that it was?
But perhaps most importantly, both men need to answer for what they will do if a similar situation presents itself with the Giants. What will their individual response be? What will the team protocol be?
At some level, this job is public redemption for Kapler. Both he and Zaidi need to detail why that redemption is warranted, and what will be different going forward.
The organization needs to answer these questions as well. Zaidi may be the primary person in the Kapler hiring, but he also may be too close to the situation. Has the organization launched an investigation into Kapler and his role? And why do they trust Zaidi’s judgement here, given his involvement as well?
What are their respective roles in the ongoing federal investigation?
A little over a year ago, Sports Illustrated reported that the Department of Justice had begun an investigation surrounding MLB teams that were potentially violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The whole situation is long, complex, and disheartening, and you can read the report here. The heart of it tells an unsettling story:
Collectively, the documents offer a vivid window into both this netherworld and the thermodynamics of the operation: How Caribbean smugglers traffic Cuban nationals to American soil, using third-country way stations. How the underground pipeline ferries Cuban players to stash houses in countries like Haiti and Mexico before they can seek lucrative contracts with MLB clubs. How teams interact with buscones, the unregulated street-level agents who often take a financial stake in Latin American players.
The dossier given to the FBI suggests the extent to which some MLB personnel are aware of—and brazenly discuss—this unscrupulous culture and the potential for corruption. While both the league office and other teams are mentioned in the files obtained by SI, the Los Angeles Dodgers, a franchise with extensive scouting and development operations in the Caribbean, figure most prominently in the dossier:
One particularly remarkable document shows that Dodgers executives in 2015 went so far as to develop a database that measured the perceived “level of egregious behavior” displayed by 15 of their own employees in Latin America. That is, using a scale of 1 to 5—“innocent bystander” to “criminal”—front-office executives assessed their own staff’s level of corruption. Five employees garnered a “criminal” rating.
There are a lot of Dodgers employees, but the general manager and the director of player development certainly are near the top of the totem pole when it comes to issues regarding international scouting and signing.
Truthfully, Zaidi and the Giants executives should have had to answer for this when San Francisco hire him. But they didn’t. They were never asked.
And now the team has hired a second party who could very well be a subject in an investigation. The matter can’t be brushed aside any longer. Zaidi and Kapler need to both be asked about their involvement in, and knowledge of the Dodgers actions.
If there was any knowledge of what was going on, they need to answer for why they never intervened.
It goes beyond just that. With the DOJ investigation still ongoing, what will Kapler and Zaidi’s roles be when it is concluded? Have the Giants had their own internal investigations into each man’s role, prior to the two hirings? If either is exposed in the investigation, how will the Giants respond and move forward?
With the controversies surrounding Larry Baer and Charles Johnson vaguely palpable, the hiring of a controversial manager with a whole lot of baggage comes with a lot of questions attached.
They’re questions worth asking. Hopefully the team realizes that they’re questions worth answering.