On Tuesday night, the San Francisco Giants officially announced that Gabe Kapler had been hired as the team’s manager. Bob Nightengale first reported on the team’s interest in August and Kapler had interviewed with San Francisco more than once this off-season. Kapler – who will be 45 in July – was of course just recently fired just two years into his Phillies tenure. The job, which he took after spending some time in the Dodgers’ front office, got off to a bad start from day one. Kapler was criticized in Philly for meddling with lineups too much, controversial pitching changes and his overwhelmingly positive tone no matter what is happening on the diamond.
Long story short, Gabe Kapler just wasn’t a fit for Philly and became somewhat of a punching bag on social media and local radio. He had this image of a guy who was trying to re-invent the wheel, justified or not. As a result of his Phillies tenure, the reaction to his hiring on Giants Twitter was less than ideal for Gabe Kapler…
Comparisons were also made to the last time San Francisco hired a coach who had just been fired from a Philly team: Chip Kelly. This isn’t the first time Kapler has been compared to Kelly, as those comparisons started the second he pulled Aaron Nola before he reached 70 pitches on Opening Day 2018. Both can certainly be described as “unconventional” but honestly, that’s where the comparisons stop. Kapler never had the personnel control that Chip did.
On top of that, I can just say as a Phillies fan that some of this Kapler hate/negative reaction is overblown.
Was he a great manager in Philly? The answer is clearly no, considering his tenure ended after only two years. Will he definitely be a successful big league manager? Still too early to tell on that, but there were certainly signs that he could thrive given the right situation. San Francisco may very well be that situation.
Kapler’s Approach Will Play Better In San Fran Than It Did In Philly
One of the main reasons Gabe Kapler could never gain any traction in Philly was the simple fact that he never had the fan base behind him. It goes without saying that Philly is a hard nosed, passionate sports city and Gabe Kapler doesn’t quite fit that mold. Kapler was a west coast guy trying to win over an angry east coast city (it’s the weather, I promise) and things didn’t work out.
However, Kapler certainly made adjustments, he just made them too late. 2018 was the season in which Kapler’s fate was truly decided. Personnel issues defined 2019, but after a 2018 that left a bad taste in fan’s mouths, having Kapler fall on the sword for last season’s struggles was an easy decision to make.
But again, Kapler did make adjustments. He was criticized in 2018 for not having a feel for the game and certainly seemed to fiddle with the lineup less in 2019. Any manager is going to have decisions that will be magnified by critics, but Kapler had fewer last season than the previous one. Gabe was also criticized for his overwhelmingly positive tone that continued no matter what. Even during awful stretches of baseball where players weren’t running out ground balls, Kapler was still Mr. positive. That got old, especially in Philly, and he’ll need to work on that.
The silver lining, however, is that Kapler showed he can make adjustments and improve himself as a manager on a year to year basis. These were his first two seasons managing in the big leagues and if he improved from year one through two, what’s to say he can’t improve in the third? He will have a fresh start to try his methods at the helm of a Giants team with lower expectations, a place where his methods might be more appreciated.
But, who knows? Gabe Kapler may very well just not be a good manager and the same thing that happened in Philly might just be taking place here. If Kapler gets off to another bad start, which he already is, things won’t go well.
Will Gabe Kapler be revenge for the 2010 NLCS or will he be Terry Francona 2.0? Time will tell. All I can say to Giants fans is that if Sean Rodriguez shows up, abandon ship.