The San Francisco Giants have relieved manager Gabe Kapler of his duties, as announced on Friday, concluding a four-year tenure marked by the franchise’s most successful season in 2021.
Since that remarkable 107-win season which secured the NL West title over arch-rivals Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants have encountered significant challenges in replicating that level of success on the field. Their performance dipped to a .500 record of 81-81 in 2022, conceding the division to the Dodgers by a wide 30-game margin.
This year has proven even more challenging, with the Giants holding a record of 78-81 entering Friday’s game. While they contended for a playoff spot for a substantial part of the season, holding the third NL wild-card position as recently as September 14th with a 75-71 record, they’ve faced a downturn, going 3-10 over the past two weeks and have been eliminated from postseason contention.
This was Kapler’s second stint as a Major League Baseball manager, previously managing the Philadelphia Phillies in 2018 and 2019.
Giants President of Baseball Operations, Farhan Zaidi, commended Kapler’s contributions and extended well wishes in a statement:
“After presenting this recommendation to ownership and securing their approval, I met with Gabe today to communicate our decision,” said Zaidi. “During his tenure as Giants manager, Gabe guided our team through an unprecedented pandemic in 2020 and achieved a franchise-record 107 wins with a postseason berth in 2021. He demonstrated dedication and passion in his efforts to enhance the on-field performance of the San Francisco Giants, and I hold great respect for him as a colleague and friend.
“On behalf of the Giants organization, we extend our best wishes to Gabe in his future endeavors and express our gratitude for his contributions over the past four years.”
The decision to part ways with Kapler is significant for Zaidi. The two had previously worked together for three years in the Dodgers’ front office, with Kapler as director of player development and Zaidi as general manager under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. They then reunited in San Francisco in 2019 when Kapler succeeded the retiring Bruce Bochy.
Despite their aligned approach, with Kapler serving as the data-driven link between players and front office, representing the modern managerial archetype, he couldn’t halt the team’s stagnation, which was not entirely his responsibility.
Moving forward, the Giants face substantial challenges following Kapler’s departure. The magic of their 2021 season, which saw them surpass all expectations with 107 wins, is a tough act to follow. The team defied projections, exceeding even the well-regarded PECOTA estimates, which had placed them fourth in the NL West with an anticipated record of 75-87. They ended the Dodgers’ eight-year division title streak, despite the latter’s 106 wins.
The Giants achieved this without making splashy acquisitions, instead opting for modest upgrades to a core that had a mediocre 29-31 record in the shortened 2020 season. Nearly every player on the roster had a career-best performance, demonstrating remarkable excellence.
However, the subsequent two seasons were a stark contrast. The core of players who won three World Series titles between 2010 and 2014, except for Brandon Crawford, struggled to replicate their earlier success. Kapler can’t be held solely responsible for this. The current roster is predominantly comprised of aging veterans and young players expected to punch above their weight.
Examining the first-round draft picks from 2014 to 2020 illustrates the challenge Kapler inherited. Most of these players didn’t live up to expectations, and the talent pipeline dried up before Kapler’s arrival.
The Giants’ strategy was to emulate the Dodgers by combining top-tier player development with the financial resources of a big-market team. So far, they have fallen short on both fronts. While they made efforts to sign Carlos Correa to a substantial contract, it didn’t materialize.
While Kapler may not have replicated the 2021 success, he’s not solely responsible for the Giants’ current standing and their projected fourth-place finish in the division, unless there’s a significant shakeup.