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Kapler doubles down on abolishing ambiguous 'unwritten rules'

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler stayed up late reading stories and social media reactions about one of the wildest all-around nights at Oracle Park in years. He woke up early Wednesday to prepare for the final day of a three-game series with the San Diego Padres, and when he got to the ballpark, he spent most of his morning meeting with players and coaches and discussing everything that had gone on. 

After all that, Kapler was unequivocal when he met with reporters. He stands by the decision to toss the "unwritten rules" out the window. It is something he has thought about for years, and he pointed out that there's so much ambiguity about them that teams can't even agree on what the threshold for hitting the brakes is. 

One team, Kapler said, might think an eight-run lead in the sixth is when you change your approach. Another may go through the final out. 

"There's no real cutoff point. That's a tough place to be," Kapler said. "I don't think there should be any of that personally, clearly, but at the same time I understand we all have different opinions and vantage points and it's okay. We don't have to see this the same way."

The Giants have drawn their own line in the sand by making it very clear that there is no line for them, and they know the rest of the league woke up Wednesday morning reading and hearing about some of their decisions. The Padres were still peeved, but Kapler did not expect any of his hitters to get thrown at. 

 

The repercussions will come when someone else has a huge lead on the Giants and decides to steal a base or put down a bunt single. At least, that's what Kapler hopes. 

"I think there's a lot of sentiment around the game that there's value in moving away from some of those rules and some of those boundaries that kind of hamstring us from being the most strategic teams that we can be, with really not a whole lot of upside," Kapler said. 

Giants coaches and staffers have been thinking of moving in this direction for a couple of years and this spring it was made clear that there will be no letting up. Steven Duggar displayed that when he stole second with a nine-run lead in the second inning. Four innings later, Mauricio Dubon put down a bunt single. 

Kapler pointed out that both players are fighting for jobs. The Giants will have to cut down to 26 players at the end of the month, and Dubon, who is out of options, could be on the chopping block. Duggar could lose his role when LaMonte Wade Jr. returns from a knee injury. It doesn't make sense to ask those young players to ease up just because the Giants have a huge lead. 

"Major League Baseball for individual players is a game of survival," Kapler said. "Mauricio Dubon is depending on his ability to be successful over a long period of time. He needs to use every tool at his disposal to be successful, to stick at the Major League level, to demonstrate his value, to hone his craft, and that doesn't ebb and flow with the score."

It all makes perfect sense, and it's a reminder that if someone doesn't want Dubon to bunt, they could always, you know, defend the bunt. If someone doesn't want Duggar to steal, they can attempt to throw him out. 

But the logic flies in the face of the way the game has been played for over 100 years, and Kapler acknowledged that not everyone, even in the Giants clubhouse, will agree with it. There are surely veterans in the clubhouse who still make a face when they see a bat flip or a stolen base in a blowout, and Kapler said that's fine. 

"This game is beautiful in many ways because it is traditional," he said. "We're not all supposed to see baseball the same way and we're not always supposed to agree on the best strategy."

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That likely will put the Giants in an interesting spot down the line. At some point this season, the Giants will be on the other end of a blowout, and one of Kapler's relief pitchers might have to wear it if an opponent keeps pressing for more runs. With such a good starting staff, Kapler could find himself on the other end of this in a pretty big spot. 

 

What if one of his pitchers is no-hitting the Padres later this year and Fernando Tatis Jr. decides to put a bunt down in the eighth inning. Will Kapler be okay with it?

"Yeah!" he said, smiling. "We'll be defending against the bunt."

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