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Wait...there was a game on Friday?

Baseball marches on even in Gabe Kapler’s absence

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

With all the hullabaloo surrounding Gabe Kapler’s firing on Friday, you’d be forgiven if you forgot about the baseball game the Giants still had to play against the Dodgers.

The season felt over—it was in terms of playoff contention, and it was for Kap, stripped of the opportunity to see his fourth full season (2020 included) as San Francisco’s skipper through to the end and play for a consecutive 81-81 record. Maybe as the ground beneath him began to shift and crack these past weeks, the front office water cooler gossip, clubhouse clamor and internet din rising into an uneasy pitch, Kapler allowed himself the smallest amount of hope that this weekend series could pull his neck from the guillotine: What if we played so brilliantly and I managed so deftly, alternating between analytics and instinct with such aplomb and feel that we sweep LA, resurface at .500 with such incredible momentum that we…. But there is no more We, and Kapler spent last night not hanging over the dugout railing at Oracle but in his bed, tossing and turning, seeing the spectral visage of Mark Mathias haunting each dark corner of his room.

It’s silly to think Kapler deadlifting this team to a final series sweep and a .500 record would’ve made any real difference in his fate, but I do agree with Logan Webb’s assertion that if the Giants had a handful more wins and more of a stake in the Wild Card race, this probably wouldn’t be happening.

With such a slight margin of error, everyone bears some of the responsibility, from Larry Baer to bat boy Dave Flemming. As Zaidi said earlier, every part of the organization needs to be put under the microscope, and of course Kapler was not above reproach—but so soon after heads roll, the full-extent of the problem is revealed. Now that someone has actually shouldered the blame, it’s time for everyone else to own up to their own shortcomings. The President of Baseball Operations is completely aware of how close his rear-end is to the fire. Maybe Kapler’s abrupt firing is the wake-up call, the heels off the cliff, or as Bryan Murphy writes: “the escalation of the premise” in the franchise’s narrative structure. Sometimes it just feels good to do something unexpected to help everyone snap out of their fog and see from a different perspective, and get “a new voice” in the clubhouse.

A lot of sober pregame interviews from players could be summarized with “We messed up.” Managers have to unfairly shoulder the burden of players’ performances. If you’re going to fire Kapler, fire Joc Pederson and Austin Slater and Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto and Mike Yastrzemski as well.

No, as Brady Klopfer put it so aptly, the Giants don’t need a scapegoat, they just need to play better. And that truth remained crystal clear when the dissatisfaction didn’t dissipate as Friday’s game got under way and Keaton Winn served up a belt-high sinker to Will Smith who casually deposited it over the centerfield wall. Three batters into the Kai Correa era and the Giants were already down 2-0.

Fire poorly located sinkers—a good portion of San Francisco’s woes could be traced back to that pitch.

Or maybe just fire everyone not named Wilmer Flores.

The veteran played the hot corner with a quiet fury, chasing down a tough back-handed pop-up that ended with him netted like a rainbow trout in foul territory. He cut the Dodgers’ early lead in half with an RBI single off Lance Lynn in the 1st, then did it again with a solo shot in the 3rd to match Freddie Freeman’s in the previous frame. Wilmer Flores is the stone fireplace—the only thing standing after the house of Giants collapse.

Of course, the Dodgers absolutely rude success is really the main problem with the Giants right now. Fire LA! They continued to showcase how a baseball team could be run when no one asked them too, modeling efficiency all night with three different home runs accounting for all 6 of their runs.

J.D. Martinez continued his reign of terror and ended Winn’s night and season by yanking a first pitch splitter over the left field wall for a 3-run homer in the 6th. LA left only 1 runner on base, scoring 6 runs on 6 hits while San Francisco stranded 5, going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They worked 6 walks against LA pitching, but as we’ve learned time and time again this season, patient at-bats and bases on balls are a lot less effective if they are left un-punctuated. Hits, man—maybe if Kapler had reminded the batters to try and hit the ball more he would still have a job.

Alas...Flores’ two in the first 3 innings were the only knocks of the game against Lynn and three relievers, and the offense once again stalled out at 2 runs.

Believe it or not, the San Francisco Giants still have two more baseball games to play. So with everything all shook up, why not have some fun? Keep making history! Kai Correa and Dave Roberts became the first coaches of Asian descent to face each other. Why not have Alyssa Nakken manage the last two games? Instead of shutting down Logan Webb, let him go for 200 strikeouts on Sunday—he’s only 6 away! Or, make the weekend all about Brandon Crawford—have him play every inning, let him come out of the bullpen to pitch the 9th, or have him start Saturday’s game.

We’re on the verge of winter, five long months without Giants baseball. However you want to describe it: “boring” or “bad” or “awful” or “frustrating” baseball is better than no baseball. Forget the business side of things, let’s just try and enjoy ourselves today and tomorrow, blithely basking in the diamond’s shine, gently reminding each other to not grind our teeth so loud as the Giants step up to the plate.