Giants

Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- A couple of days after the Giants introduced Gabe Kapler as their manager, a member of the organization's player development staff received a surprising request. 

Kapler wanted a statistical breakdown of Joe McCarthy, an outfielder who came over from the Rays in a small move minutes before the trade deadline and hit just .165 in Triple-A for the Giants. Kapler also asked for McCarthy's phone number so he could reach out and find out more about a player who doesn't seem to be in the immediate plans for the outfield. 

Five weeks ago, on the day he was hired and went through a strange 58-minute press conference, Kapler said he planned to go on a "listening tour" and soak up as much knowledge about his new organization as he could. It has ended up being an extremely detailed one. 

Kapler has spent time talking to veterans like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Tony Watson. He watched Jeff Samardzija go through an offseason workout, talked to Mike Yastrzemski over the phone, and exchanged texts with Tyler Beede and dozens of others. But the tour didn't just stop at obvious landmarks. 

Kapler attended five (often-contentious) Q&A sessions the Giants held for season-ticket holders in November and early December, often staying after to have one-on-one interactions with fans. He also has followed that up by meeting some fans for coffee and further conversation. 

"I see it as a really good way to get to know the community," Kapler said. "Our season-ticket holders are a reflection of San Francisco and are a reflection of San Francisco Giants fans. In getting to know them, we know what's important to them. I think the experience has been really good, and in particular, I think the conversations that happen after the Q&As have been most impactful for me. People let their guard down a little bit and kind of get to know each other in a five or 10-minute chat session. I think I've just gotten to know people a little bit better."

 

In between all those phone calls and meetings, Kapler held dozens of interviews as he filled out his coaching staff. It's been a hectic stretch for the new Giants manager, but that's what he expected, and what he wanted. On the day Kapler was introduced as manager, he was asked if he felt like he was starting out in a hole. 

"Yes, I feel like I'm in a little bit of a hole, and yes, that means something to me," Kapler said. "I think I would probably just use it as an opportunity to roll up my sleeves a little bit more, to dig in a little bit more, to really find out what the issues are, to find out why I have had some of those issues and why so far I have not been a popular hire."

Ultimately, as he gets further and further from that first day, Kapler will be judged on his ability to win. The Giants don't exactly seem to be putting him in the best spot in that regard. They plan to be active in altering the roster over the next two months, but thus far the only addition has been Kevin Gausman. The Giants already have lost Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, Kevin Pillar and Stephen Vogt. 

Ownership will be patient in 2020, but at some point, the Giants will need to show they can turn this around under Kapler. That will take growth from the next generation of players, and this is where team officials have found the most encouraging signs as Kapler has worked to get to know his new organization. There's little doubt that he has hit it off with his younger players, many of whom he has had multiple conversations with. 

"I'm certainly excited that he's on board with us," rookie right-hander Tyler Beede said on KNBR this week. "He's great, man. He loves guys for who they are. He cares about his players. He invests time in learning about how guys are and what they bring to the table. I know everybody's -- what I've heard from other guys -- everybody's excited about it."

That includes players who are just getting started in the Giants organization. Perhaps the biggest surprise over Kapler's first month as manager came two nights before the start of the Winter Meetings, when he showed up at a North Beach bar for a fundraiser Hunter and Braden Bishop were holding for their charity 4MOM. The Bishops lost their mother, Suzy, to Alzheimer's in October. 

 

Hunter Bishop, this year's first-round pick, said he met Kapler the day after he got hired and the two spent 30 minutes discussing baseball and life. Bishop sent Kapler a text later and mentioned the fundraiser, and the manager showed up to the event earlier this month and spent time with the family and Giants fans.

Like most of Kapler's new players, Bishop saw the reaction to the hire, but he said the Kapler he has gotten to know is a "high-quality human being" and he noted "how much it meant to my family and all of 4MOM that he showed up."

"He took the time to meet everyone and shake people's hands," Bishop said. "I'm really excited he's (going to) lead the organization."

There's more and more of that coming from the Giants these days, and that's what Farhan Zaidi expected when he hired Kapler. He knew there would be an initial storm, but Zaidi felt strongly that he was making the right choice and that Kapler would dig in and prove that. The work has taken place over the last five weeks and will continue before Kapler finally gets to lead the team onto the field. 

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There are more players to call and more meetings with season-ticket holders scheduled for January. The listening tour isn't close to being over. 

"I said at the outset that I needed to do a lot of listening, and that entails being a good question-asker, so I could draw out the responses that will help me learn as fast as possible," Kapler said. "Because there's really not enough time to help me get up to speed the way I want to."