It has been clear for months that Gabe Kapler likely would be National League Manager of the Year, but Bruce Bochy didn't want to take any chances. Bochy was brought on by MLB Network to hand out the award, and when he was asked to announce the winner, he paused and smiled.
Bochy had not yet received the text message with the name of the winner and he didn't want to name the wrong man. He waited a moment, but as Gabe Kapler watched a couple thousand miles away, he couldn't help but smile as well.
"I was like, 'Oh, there's Boch,'" he said later. "That's probably a good sign."
It certainly was, as Kapler became the second manager in franchise history to win the award. This one was a no-brainer, with Kapler receiving 28 of 30 first place votes after leading the Giants to a franchise record 107 wins and a shocking NL West title.
It has been a month since the season ended in the NLDS and that has given Kapler a chance to sit back and reflect on what the team accomplished. During an interview for the Giants Talk Podcast, he said one thing has stood out.
"I guess I realized it all the way through but I guess it's kind of hit me harder the last couple of days, and that's just how many people contributed to our season and how, if everybody isn't leaning hard in the exact same direction, 107 wins and a National League West title doesn't happen," Kapler said.
As an example, Kapler brought up members of the organization who are behind the scenes, including director of travel and clubhouse operations Abe Silvestri, clubhouse manager Brad Grems and head groundskeeper Greg Elliott. The entire organization, from staffers to players, was pulling in one direction, and perhaps that's Kapler's greatest accomplishment through two seasons.
Kapler took over a team that had lost at least 85 games each of the previous three seasons, and most around the game thought the Giants were still in a rebuild after missing the playoffs in 2020. But the clubhouse felt differently.
The Giants made an NL West title their goal back in spring training, even as the numbers seemed to indicate they had no shot. FanGraphs gave them a 5.7 percent shot of making the playoffs and PECOTA, a respected projections system, put them at zero percent to win the NL West. PECOTA had the Giants finishing 24 games behind the Dodgers and 17 behind the Padres.
"I think the players set the tone right away in spring training," Kapler said. "The players just didn't really give a s--- about what PECOTA projected and what analysts were saying about our club and that was really important. If Buster says it, if Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria and Kevin Gausman are saying, 'Hey, we're a really good team. We can do this. We can have resurgent years, some of the best years of our careers, and we can have some of these younger players come up and interject their most athletic moments.'"
The end result was one of the most surprising regular season runs in MLB history, leading to a hell of a week in November for Kapler. Four days after he got a two-year extension, he became the first Giants manager in 21 years to be named NL Manager of the Year. As Kapler reflected on it all, he appreciated the way the whole clubhouse moved in one direction.
"We knew that the projections were there," he said, "But we also knew that we were a talented group that could come together and work together to achieve something great."