Firing Gabe Kapler shows SF Giants are in a state of turmoil

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Gabe Kapler, seen here on Monday, Sept. 6, in Chicago, won’t be the San Francisco Giants manager going forward after being fired with three games left in the 2023 season.

Gabe Kapler, seen here on Monday, Sept. 6, in Chicago, won’t be the San Francisco Giants manager going forward after being fired with three games left in the 2023 season.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

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It’s a mercy dismissal in a way, as now Kapler won’t have to face question after question about his job security — and the nostalgia-focused Giants marketing machine won’t have those questions linger over Brandon Crawford’s presumptive final game in orange and black on Sunday. But it’s still a surprise to see them pull the trigger this early.

Kapler leaves a mixed legacy. It certainly wasn’t an easy spot to fill, having to follow the most successful manager in Giants history, but he tried. He oversaw the most successful regular season in franchise history, which is really saying something, considering how long the Giants have been around. And though he leaves with only one playoff appearance, all of his teams remained in contention until late into the season, which is no small feat considering some of the rosters he was given to work with.

But fair or not, Kapler is going to be remembered more for his failures than anything else. He failed to produce another playoff team outside of the 107-win anomaly. He failed miserably in the second half of this season as the Giants tumbled out of contention.

And perhaps most damningly, he failed to produce a style of play that resonated with fans. Under Kapler, the Giants went away from consistent lineups and rotations, instead embracing platoons, openers and matchup-based strategies. It may have worked a lot of the time, but my God did it produce a boring brand of baseball.

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Whether you like Gabe Kapler or not — and plenty of Giants fans do not, either because of his perceived overreliance on analytics, or his somewhat off-putting personality, or his sometimes pseudo-philosophical answers to questions after games — it’s entirely clear that he’s the sacrificial lamb here, falling on the sword for the transgressions of the organization as a whole.

Kapler didn’t put together the team on the field. Farhan Zaidi’s brand of roster-building — check that, the San Francisco Giants ownership-approved brand of roster-building — resulted in flawed teams that needed everything to go right to stay in contention. Everything most certainly did not go right this year, from injury-prone hitters getting … well, injured, to marginal pitchers brought in for rotation depth completely falling flat. After a disastrous offseason, the Giants had the look of a .500 team in April, and aside from a few hot months, that’s exactly what they are. Should Kapler have lost his job for not doing more with this collection of players?

Well, he did, and now the Giants are at a crossroads. After both Zaidi and Kapler received a vote of confidence not even two weeks ago, the team’s decision to fire their manager reeks of desperation, of having to do something so they don’t seem totally oblivious to the fact that their fan base has reached peak levels of apathy. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s the right move, mind you. It’s a move. See, they listen! They’re doing things!

It also doesn’t make a lot of sense, on the surface, that they’re keeping Zaidi around, even though his methods are Johnson-approved and he’s done a nice job of building up the farm system. If they’re going to clean house, why not a deep clean? Is Farhan, who’ll be going into next season as a lame duck, going to have final say over who the next manager is? If so, is that manager coming in knowing the person who hired him may be out the door in a year? Will ownership step in and install their own guy? It’s a mess. Completely scattershot. It’s not what you expect to see from a franchise like the San Francisco Giants, but here we are.

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So now, as the Giants finish out the string this weekend against the Dodgers, the franchise looks to be in as much turmoil as I can remember since before Brian Sabean came around. The salad days of the dynasty era are long dead and gone. The disastrous 2023 season has resulted in a Kapler sacrifice, and the Giants are hoping that will placate their fan base for a few weeks at least. It’s like the Johnsons are whispering, ‘Dream about Buster Posey or Will Clark filling out the lineup card next year and pay no attention to the playoffs the Giants aren’t in, please. Hey, we’re going to be open to long-term deals now. Have you heard of Shohei Ohtani? Wouldn’t he be fun?’

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