SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As the Giants gathered at Oracle Park over the weekend for the first FanFest under Gabe Kapler, their rivals were busy putting the finishing touches on a delayed blockbuster that ultimately brought Mookie Betts to the NL West. Kapler was asked about his former employer when he sat down to face the media on Friday, and he said he had recently had a conversation with one of his Giants about the move the Los Angeles Dodgers were making.
Kapler didn't name the player, but said their conversation was based around simply playing hard and having fun. He said the Giants can't worry about the improvements the Dodgers or Arizona Diamondbacks have made.
And then Kapler took an interesting detour. If he were to stand on a debate stage at some point this year, this is what his final argument to voters would look like:
"What is within our control is how hard we grind, how much effort we put into our preparation and our planning," Kapler said. "We're going to be really good at those things. We know that we may not win two out of three in a three-game series, but we know that we're going to exhaust our opponents.
"We're going to do that by making good swing decisions, by dominating the strike zone offensively. And as pitchers we're going to fill it up with strikes and then we're going to take every last inch on the bases, and we're going to play with a high level of energy and enthusiasm, and those are the things within our control. We believe those processes will help us win as many games as possible."
They probably won't be selling t-shirts at Oracle Park that say "we're going to exhaust you," but for the Giants, this is where they're starting. There has been a clear mission statement, one that Kapler repeated often to coaches and players before he arrived at FanFest. The Giants have far less talent than the teams they're chasing in the NL West, but as Kapler prepares to get in front of the room for the first time, he is focusing on what he can control.
He wants this to be the most competitive camp Giants players have been part of.
Over the next six weeks, specific changes will become clear. Kapler provided a brief hint of what's to come when he said the Giants might bring in umpires for bullpen sessions, as he did in Philadelphia. He doesn't just want relievers out there throwing at a glove; an umpire would call balls and strikes to add a little intensity.
"We're trying to create something at stake even though there's nothing at stake in the bullpen," Kapler said. "I think that focuses attention. I think it heightens attention and brings some adrenaline, because you're trying to execute your pitches."
Those first bullpens will take place this week, with pitchers and catchers reporting Tuesday for physicals. The position players report Sunday, although the vast majority of them are expected in camp well before Monday's first full-squad workout. That has been the case in recent years, but this year seems a bit different.
With so many roster spots -- including starting spots -- up for grabs, you certainly don't want to be the last one to walk into the room.
Kapler will get his first chance to deliver his mottos to the full group next Monday, but he already has done so in smaller settings. He spent a chunk of the offseason traveling the country to meet individually with players, and their feedback was positive. Now, Kapler will get a chance to put his plan into action, and fans may finally get some answers.
Thus far, they have been hard to come by.
Who will be the closer? The Giants aren't saying, and they won't even commit to having a set closer. Is the rotation 80 percent set? It seems that way, but maybe there's a surprise coming. Is Mauricio Dubon the starting second baseman, or a platoon shortstop, or the center fielder, or a backup at five different spots? He might be all of the above.
Is Hunter Pence primarily a left fielder or a pinch-hitter? That's unclear. Are the Brandons headed for platoons? It seems that's the case, but nobody will say it out loud. Is Wilmer Flores a Giant? Well, not yet, but probably?
There are a lot of questions to be answered over the next six weeks, more than in any camp in recent Giants history. The work starts Tuesday. For now, the only thing that's clear is that this camp will have a very defined vibe.
"We're trying to create an environment of competition and we want to get to spring training and see the environment with our own eyes, allow guys to compete for playing time," Kapler said. "It's going to be a merit-based environment in Scottsdale and guys will earn playing time."