When Farhan Zaidi took over the front office last year, many of us cheered it as a sign that the Giants finally got it: things needed to change. Coming off two dismal seasons following an embarrassing postseason collapse, Zaidi was going to be the agent of sabermetric chaos who would propel the franchise into the Dodgers-tinted future.
Well, change is finally here. To paraphrase Gothmog, the age of Sabean and Bochy is over. The time of Zaidi and Kapler has begun.
But the question now stands: Is this the kind of change we want?
We got our first glimpse of what this new era will look like on Wednesday, when Zaidi and new GM Scott Harris introduced Gabe Kapler, San Francisco Giants Manager. It was weird. Instead of talking about baseball, Farhan Zaidi and Kapler spent the first 15 minutes or so—and many minutes after that—talking about just how much they mishandled an incident from four years ago, and how very, very sorry they were.
There were references to Kapler’s mom, apparent legal and child safety expert. There were references to Kapler’s belief in “equality, diversity, and caring … about community,” and how he’s the one to make change happen because he cares. There were references, briefly, to winning baseball games. And there was a lot and lot of rambling.
But there were some telling admissions, perhaps none more so than Zaidi acknowledging that he was never asked in the interview process for his current position about the alleged incidents and misconduct that occurred during his tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In fairness to all parties, it must be noted that the Washington Post’s report on the 2015 incident—which, as a reminder, involved the physical and possible sexual assault of a minor—was published months after Zaidi was hired. However, that was not the case for this report detailing an alleged sexual assault by a Dodgers player against a hotel employee, or this report detailing a federal investigation into MLB teams’ potentially corrupt practices in recruiting international players—a report that most prominently featured the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If, in fact, neither report was brought up during any of the interviews the Giants had with Zaidi, then that’s more than just a failure of due diligence—it’s a failure of the culture and values espoused by the Giants.
Now, let me be clear. I have no illusions about who—or rather, what—the Giants are. They are a corporation owned by billionaires and managed by millionaires. Whatever signals of corporate wokeness the Giants may display, they are still a brand, and their primary interest is getting customers to fork over their cash.
But even in a world where the facts don’t matter anymore, even in a world where progressive values have been co-opted as corporate speak, even in a world where people with disgusting amounts of wealth can do suspect or even terrible things and face little to no consequences, holding those in power accountable is still a fight worth having.
Zaidi, at least, seems to recognize that. During the press conference, he acknowledged that “we’re going to be on notice.” If there’s a silver lining to the public uproar surrounding the hiring of Kapler, it’s that this front office and this manager have nowhere to hide. Every (in)action will be scrutinized.
As it should be. MLB is facing a crisis driven by the reckless behavior of front offices with no apparent qualms about the laws they break or the ethics they tread over. As fans of the sport, we have little reason to trust the rich executives running the show. Not that we ever did, perhaps. But the federal investigations, the charges of collusion, the enabling of players’ addictions, the tech-assisted cheating, the offensive uniform color schemes—none of these things make it easier to be a fan.
Of course, baseball has never been perfect. Pick a decade, and you’ll find all sorts of malfeasance and corruption taking place within MLB’s allegedly hallowed halls.
But that was then, and this is now. More is expected. More should be expected. If this past decade has revealed anything, it’s that the “stick to sports” line is no longer applicable. We are being exposed more and more to the real-life consequences of actions taken by players, managers, and baseball executives. As much as we would like to bury our heads in the sand regarding these issues, Wednesday’s press conference shows that will be increasingly harder, if not impossible, to do.
The Giants will enter the 2020 season with a new manager, the first in more than a decade, and one already mired in scandal. We were promised change in 2018, and change is what we got. And we, as fans, are left to grapple with what that means.