Ratto: Gabe Kapler gets the worst job

The Giants and their new manager are working against their own best history

Ray Ratto
November 12, 2019 - 9:25 pm

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants have concluded that the man best equipped to form their future while doing daily battle with their past is Gabe Kapler. He will come to appreciate it as much as regret it.

The upside? As the team's new manager, Kapler will implement Farhan Zaidi's master plan from the chair closest to him (with all due respect to Scott Harris, the new general manager). He will see what Zaidi is going to undo as well as do with his franchise, and part of his job will be to codify the explanations required to make the transitions seem less jarring. There are only 30 managing jobs in the major leagues, and Kapler, who left Philadelphia under a cloud of head-scratching and underachievement, still has one of them.

And contrarily? He will, at least in the short run, be compared unfavorably to the man he replaced, Bruce Bochy because that's just the way this works. Bochy worked the job for 13 years, winning three parades and handling the dugout, clubhouse and interview room with remarkable adroitness; no Giant manager has done all three in tandem as well. By comparison, he had two Phillies teams that used $235,000,000 of owner John Middleton's money and won 181 games — two games under break-even.

In addition, there were accusations that he mishandled accusations of domestic violence in his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, and those will always be held in reserve when criticism of Kapler's work arises. Nobody should be naive about this; if Zaidi gets the wins from Kapler in time, he will defend his first meaningful hire (depending of course on how you view the 32-year-old Harris' role), because that's how it works in America. Success on the job always trumps everything else.

But Kapler enters this job with a dossier built for skepticism, and the new Giants are working against their own best history, which is a lousy position for anyone. Unlike Bochy, who was an unspectacular but resume-solid hire until he became BOCHY, Kapler doesn't have the reservoir of good will or even a value-neutral managing history.

In short, whatever long slow build Zaidi might be implementing with this franchise as it screams for a makeover, Kapler isn't likely to enjoy it nearly as much as if it were a fast and frantic one. The new baseball manager answers for baseball operations on a daily basis, and often neither the questions nor answers are terribly pleasant, plus he often takes direct in-game managements direction from his civilian-clothed superiors, so he can be defending decisions that weren't even his.

All this will reveal itself in time, but here is what we know now: The last Giants manager to take this job with as much scrutiny was Jim Davenport in 1985. He lasted a year. Since then, Roger Craig, Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou and Bochy were either hailed on arrival or greeted with a hearty "meh." The "meh" was afforded Bochy, and he ended succeeding beyond anyone's wildest dreams. We mention that because popular opinion is largely valueless...

...until it becomes a driving force in public dissatisfaction. In other words, Gabe Kapler is following a hero, manages a team still in the early stages of a full reconstruction, and hasn't got the well of support afforded 35 years of predecessors.

In other words, good look, son. You're already going to need it.

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