SAN FRANCISCO – These words sound sloppy, as if being used as a crutch by a leader who doesn’t know what to say.
Gabe Kapler promised that his staff would cooperate and communicate. He promised that his coaches would emphasize development and refine preparation processes that would lead to better results. Under Kapler’s leadership, the Giants will use analytics but first to meet a player’s needs and learning style to ensure they make the best use of available information.
At a confusing introductory news conference in November 2019, it appeared as though the new Giants manager specialized in using vague rhetoric and empty words.
Two years later, Kapler’s message is now understood loud and clear: The Giants set their single-season franchise-record with 107 wins and their first National League West title since 2012.
On Tuesday, Kapler was honored as National League Manager of the Year after taking 28 firsts out of 30 for the award.
“The results speak for themselves,” general manager Scott Harris said last week when Kapler received a two-year contract extension. “I think the cup’s pregame preparation is excellent, but what makes it special is their commitment to adjusting to new information from the coaches, the players, and what the game is telling them.”
When Kapler was hired to replace Bruce Bouchy, who presented the award live on MLB Network on Tuesday, it was clear that the former Philadelphia Phillies manager didn’t have all the answers. What has allowed him to succeed in San Francisco is the way Kapler sought to cover his blind spots and make the most informed pregame and in-game decisions possible.
Kapler became the first Giants manager to win the Manager of the Year award since Dusty Baker received the honor in 2000 by assembling a coaching staff. An expansive, largely unconventional and inexperienced staff was met with skepticism from members of the media (myself included) and fans, but over the past two seasons, Kapler’s biggest gamble as a manager kind of paid off. Did what he didn’t even expect.
“We saw the fruits of our labor that way in 2021, because I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we built relationships with our players and our staff,” Kapler said. “What we were able to accomplish collectively, I think has a lot to do with every player in our clubhouse having someone in our staff to relate to.”
The decision to hire Kapler, Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, who worked with him as farm director with the Dodgers from 2014-2017, to deal with Los Angeles minor league players and sexual assault allegations against them This led to significant protests at the local level. Experienced perceived failures during his two-year stint as manager of Phillips.
Zaidi believed that Kapler’s personality disposition, his excellent communication skills, and his willingness to think critically in search of solutions would ultimately make him the right fit in San Francisco, but understands that Kapler has no place to rely on. For the Giants fan base it will take time.
Zaidi and Kapler could surround the manager with a proven staff full of former big leaguers and longtime major league coaches. Instead, he bet on several youth coaches, who brought cutting-edge ideas and flow into the analytics and numbers that govern baseball decisions in the dugout.
Kai Correa, who had never worked in the majors before becoming the Giants’ bench coach, has been hailed by Giants players as one of the most prepared assistants to have worked with him during his career. Donny Acker, a hitting coach who recently left the Giants to become Rangers’ bench coach, took a lineup that ranked the bottom five in the majors in consecutive home runs and turned it into one of the most powerful offenses in the National League. used to help. Pitching coach Andrew Bailey, who had spent a season coaching professionally, was instrumental in enabling Kevin Gossman, Anthony Descalfani and Logan Webb to maximize their potential.
All three were under 40 when the Giants hired them and are just a few of the nearly dozen success stories from Kapler’s early coaching staff.
“It was a lot of unknown names and a lot of people who first made their debut at major league level, so there’s little sense that it was going to cause some growing pains,” Gossman said in September. “But I’ve been around a lot of staff and this is the most prepared coaching staff I’ve ever been in.”
During the 2021 season, Kapler and his assistants often talked about their willingness to challenge each other and change opinions on topics ranging from the use of a relief pitcher to sending a typical pinch-hitter to the plate. Collaborative communication that initially sounded like Silicon Valley-corporate speak was a part of the giants’ success this year, as Kapler believes empowerment comes from partnerships.
“I feel very supported by my coaching staff,” Kapler said. “I feel like I’m surrounded by people who share a vision that we all share — me, Farhan and Scott — so I think there’s a lot of alignment there.”
The alignment is now the hallmark of a Giants organization and coaching staff that has taken a new shape this season. With Acker departing for a job in Texas and longtime third base coach Ron Votas retiring, the Giants have promoted assistant coach Mark Hallberg to replace Votas, 32-year-old Pedro Guerrero being replaced by Aker. Hired to fill the vacancy and named former bullpen. Catcher Taira Uematsu a full-time assistant coach.
Guerrero, a native Spanish speaker, and Uematsu, the first Japanese-born assistant in major league history, will bring new voices to a staff that reflects a growing number of diverse perspectives.
Those perspectives will be heard, as Kapler has made it a priority. The Manager of the Year award he won on Tuesday is clearly a reflection of his own success and the Giants’ exceptional regular season achievements, but there’s no doubt it was made possible by the coaches who surround and challenge him .