The San Francisco Giants’ second-half swoon has claimed its first victim, as the team is reportedly set to fire manager Gabe Kapler.
I’m hearing the Giants are relieving Gabe Kapler of managerial duties, announcement imminent.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 29, 2023
Kapler was the darling of the baseball world just a couple of years ago, taking home NL Manager of the Year honors while leading the no-name Giants to a surprise division title in 2021. But San Francisco suffered a heartbreaking home loss in Game 5 of the NLDS to the rival Dodgers, and it’s been just about all downhill since for Kapler and Co. The team limped to an 81-81 finish last season, and after hanging around the NL Wild Card picture for much of this summer, a 20-32 record since the start of August has left the Giants playing out the string over the last week or so.
Of course, how much you blame Kapler for that slide depends on who you ask. The Giants certainly overachieved during that magical 2021 season, and Farhan Zaidi and Co. never quite made the big splash either in free agency or via trade that they so desperately sought — whether Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa or another star. The result was an assembly of fine but unspectacular position players, many of whom needed to be platooned, and a starting rotation that only had two or three full-time members in it on any given day.
Kapler did his best to juggle those limitations, and for a while, he did it pretty well — the Giants were 46-36 heading into July and held on to a Wild Card spot as recently as a couple of weeks ago, all despite using more bullpen games than any other team in the Majors. All of Kapler’s tinkering did have its downsides, though: His decision to pinch-hit anonymous infielder Mark Mathias for franchise icon Brandon Crawford against lefty Aroldis Chapman last month both highlighted the limitations of the team’s bench and also angered many fans who saw it as an example of their manager’s penchant for overthinking.
No matter what you think of Kapler’s style, it was clear that someone was bound to take the fall for the Giants’ listless direction over the past couple of years — and that that someone was unlikely to ever be Zaidi. It remains to be seen who San Francisco will replace him with facing an uncertain offseason and a lackluster free agent class that doesn’t seem likely to offer any quick fixes to an aging and mediocre roster.