November 28, 2020

The Deets: Sorry, Giants fans — Gabe Kapler isn’t going anywhere

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The Deets is a morning dose of commentary from sports columnist Dieter Kurtenbach that wraps up everything important in the world of sports and looks forward to another crazy day ahead. 


The Big Thing

I’d say that this weekend’s three-game sweep at the hands of the cross-bay rival A’s caused Giants fans to turn on Gabe Kapler, but I don’t think there was actually a change of heart on the Giants’ first-year manager.

So let’s just say the animosity that many Giants fans have held for Kapler since he was hired came to the surface or was amplified this past weekend.

The anger is understandable. The Giants blew not one, but two ninth-inning leads this weekend in spectacular fashion (and that’s not hyperbole), and then threw batting practice to the A’s on Sunday. It was a reckoning. And what was once a season with possibilities for the Giants — faint, but present possibilities — is now, undeniably over.

And so it seems — at least from my perch — that Kapler is the target of most of that anger.

But I have another tough pill to swallow for the Fire Kapler crowd: It’s going to take a lot more than two games — or even 23 games — to get rid of him.

That’s because Kapler was hired by Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi not because of the great job he did in his last first managerial job in Philadelphia, but because of the job he did as the director the Dodgers’ farm system alongside Zaidi.

And because of what happened in Philadelphia (clubhouse discord, massive collapses) and with the Dodgers’ farm system (utter failure in handling sexual assault allegations against players) Kapler was never going to get another managerial job unless Zaidi hired him.

I think that was part of the allure for Zaidi.

Kapler is an extension of the Giants’ front office in a way that is in line with the new business of baseball. But it goes beyond even that.

He’s a lackey. Whatever Zaidi says goes, because Kapler knows if he’s not Zaidi’s buddy, he’s not working in any serious capacity in baseball again.

And while it’s fair to say that Kapler is completely lost as an in-game manager — the last thing he does is inspire confidence — it’s important to remember that he isn’t the one really making those calls.

No, he’s a glorified test taker with a whole support team and binders full of cheat sheets around him. Agency for a manager? What is this, 2010?

Kapler is neither the problem nor the solution. Those trying to pin the blame on him for this past weekend don’t understand his role — the typical role of a modern big-league manager.

The truth is that in seriously analytical organizations — as most baseball front offices seem to be these days — managers simply don’t matter much. There’s a reason manager salaries have dropped dramatically over the last few years. In the playoffs, when the pressure is on and you don’t have much time to check the binders, yes, perhaps managers and how they handle pitching can matter.

But these Giants aren’t going to sniff the playoffs for a long time.

In this day and age, both the lineup card and most of the pitching decisions are pre-planned through “collaboration”, which is just a fancy way of saying that the person with the most power calls the shots. Even if Kapler thinks he’s that person, he’s not.

No, in 2020, the managers’ role is mostly public relations: preach the gospel of the front office in the clubhouse and to the media and make sure the clubhouse doesn’t revolt.

I’m not in the clubhouse anymore — thanks pandemic — so I can’t tell you if a real mutiny is about to rise.

And even if one was about to go down, would it matter? Who on this team is going to still be around by the time the Giants are postseason contenders again?

The team’s best position player is a 30-year-old outfielder in his second big-league season, though you could argue it’s a 32-year-old infielder who has “pinch hitter” as one of his positions on Baseball Reference.

The Giants are in the second season — if you could call this a season — of what was always expected to be a half-decade rebuild. Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Hunter Pence, and Pablo Sandoval are still key players for this team — in a full tear-down rebuild, the walls of the old edifice are still standing.

Yes, the shortened season brought about the possibility of two good weeks and a whole bunch of mediocrity being enough to sneak this team into the expanded playoffs — one could dream, even foolishly — but the more likely outcome for the Giants this season is the one we’re seeing unfold:

Bad roster plays bad baseball.

There isn’t a manager in the world who could fix that.


What We Learned

The A’s remain exceptional… Lost in this narrative about the Giants is the fact that the A’s had two incredible comeback wins and then absolutely demolished the Giants’ bullpen on Sunday. Oakland is now 13-2 in August and despite their flaws (the rotation is still in question, way too many strikeouts) this team has an aura about it. This season was supposed to be *the* season for the A’s. Are there any non-believers still out there?

George Kittle got paid… The contract became official on Friday. Dude deserves every penny.

Kyle Shanahan isn’t happy with his receiver corps… And I can’t blame him. It’s been a big question since even before Deebo Samuel broke his foot… It’s clear that Shanahan is looking for speed on the outside, in particular. The Niners signed Tavon Austin and JJ Nelson to start the weekend and are reportedly bringing in Jaron Brown for a workout in the coming days… Can you replace Marquise Goodwin if he never seemed to play for this team?

Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is impressing… I’m a big fan of the Niners’ Aiyuk pick, but let’s wait until pads are on before we make any proclaimat — well, at least I tried to slow down the hype train.

Playoff hockey is well underway… I have enjoyed the atmosphere of the bubbles, but the lack of a real crowd has become problematic now that it’s the playoffs. Hockey dearly misses fans — the sport has a soundtrack of anticipation, dejection, and elation that is played with a 20,000-piece orchestra in the playoffs. It makes for great neutral watching. I watched plenty of hockey over the weekend, but it’s simply not the same when you have a crowd of one. Man, what I wouldn’t give to hear a home crowd go crazy after a big penalty kill or a go-ahead goal right now.


Hot Links

• Jerick McKinnon has people excited. [BANG]

• The A’s defense: incredible [BANG]

• DK Metcalf. Large and… deliberate.


What to watch

A’s at Diamondbacks, 6:40… It’s a real shame the A’s won’t be able to go up against Madison Bumgarner in their back-to-back, home-and-home two-game sets. If you thought Sunday was a slugfest…

Giants at Angels, 6:40… If Stephen Piscotty posted a 1.462 OPS over the weekend. What is Mike Trout going to do to this Giants’ bullpen?

Playoff basketball… All day, every day. Thanks pandemic. No, really, thank you — the world might suck, but this is going to be boss.

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Author: Dieter Kurtenbach

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