Giants

Why Farhan Zaidi tied his, Giants' fortunes to new manager Gabe Kapler

Why Farhan Zaidi tied his, Giants' fortunes to new manager Gabe Kapler

SAN FRANCISCO -- The best way to get through life on social media is to never check the mentions, but a lot of Giants employees couldn't help themselves over the past month.

The franchise's search for a new manager was mostly quiet outside of the building, but occasionally a scrap of information would leak out, and Giants fans were not shy about making their opinions known about one particular candidate. Team employees found themselves gravitating toward Twitter, reading some of the reaction.

Gabe Kapler was the favorite when the Giants started this process more than a month ago, and in the end, he was Farhan Zaidi's choice.

Zaidi and Andrew Friedman nearly hired Kapler as the manager in Los Angeles before settling on Dave Roberts, but given a second chance, the Giants' president of baseball operations is tying a large part of his own future to Kapler, whom the Phillies fired last month after two seasons.

This perhaps is the biggest decision Zaidi will make over the course of his initial five-year contract with the Giants, and it's one he did not at all take lightly.

The Giants knew Kapler would be a controversial choice, and sources say there was division at the upper levels of the organization about which way they should go. As the finish line neared, Kapler came back to San Francisco.

"He has met with everybody we have," one Giants person said Monday.

There are team employees who preferred Astros bench coach Joe Espada and a path with less baggage, but in the end, this was Zaidi's choice, and it needed to be.

When the Giants brought Zaidi up from LA a year ago, they handed him the keys to the baseball operations department. You can't do that, and then keep him from making his own decision with his most important hire.

Zaidi was deliberate, interviewing two internal candidates and a handful of rising coaches from other organizations. As of Monday afternoon, some of his coworkers believed Zaidi truly had not made up his mind, but the search kept coming back to Kapler.

The reasons for optimism are clear. Kapler is known as a good communicator, and he was a rising star while with the Dodgers. The Giants believe they need changes across all levels, and Kapler helped modernize the Dodgers while serving as director of player development. While he went 161-163 as the manager in Philadelphia, Kapler does have two years of experience and hopefully has learned from his mistakes. Zaidi has publicly talked of the boost a manager can get the second time around.

Kapler certainly has the résumé that can help overhaul a Giants clubhouse that had become stale. He played a dozen years in the big leagues, and that carries significant weight. His time working in the minors should serve him well, as he takes over a team that used 64 players in 2019 and expects to bring in plenty of prospects over the next two years.

But there also are reasons why you'd be ratioed with the mere mention of Kapler as a front-runner. There are questions about the way he handled assault allegations against Dodgers prospects while in LA, and Kapler and his bosses will have to answer those as he's introduced Wednesday. Zaidi gave his initial thoughts Tuesday night, but he'll likely have to address it again. Kapler will, too.

[RELATED: Krukow explains why he likes Kapler's hiring]

Ultimately, this decision will be judged on wins and losses, and Kapler is coming off a rough finish in Philadelphia. The Phillies had plenty of injuries, but they went 81-81 and finished fourth in the NL East after adding Bryce Harper.

The Giants have been worse than that in recent years, of course. That's why they brought in Zaidi and tasked him with overhauling the organization. They gave him the keys and trusted him to make the right decisions.

The first year was mostly positive, with the big league roster showing strides and the farm system hinting that it might get this team back to contention sooner than expected. This is the start of Zaidi's second year with the Giants, so he took a big swing, giving Kapler a three-year contract. Starting Wednesday, when they'll stand side by side at Oracle Park, they'll try to prove it was the right decision.

The easiest way to do that is one that worked for the previous regime. Win, and win big.

More on Kapler from NBC Sports Philadelphia

Leadership issues led to Kapler's firing by Phillies 
Kapler's reactions on final day of Phillies season
Bryce Harper's thoughts on Kapler's future
Kapler, Velasquez have miscommunication

What's behind Giants' four catcher's interference calls in 18 games?

What's behind Giants' four catcher's interference calls in 18 games?

The Giants knew they would miss Buster Posey's approach at the plate, his arm behind it, his framing and his leadership on and off the field. 

When Posey opted out of the 2020 season after a week of Summer Camp, he left huge spikes to fill, and the front office and new coaching staff knew it couldn't be done. 

But they never really could have anticipated having such issues with one aspect of the position that normally isn't a huge problem at the big league level. When Chadwick Tromp clipped Josh Reddick's bat with his outstretched glove in the third inning of a 6-4 loss, it was the fourth catcher's interference call on the Giants in 18 games. 

To put that into perspective, Posey has three ... in his entire career.

Posey has been called for catcher's interference just one time over the past six seasons, including none last year, when the Giants had just one. The first three this year were called on Tyler Heineman, but the one on Tromp was especially costly. It wiped the second out -- Reddick grounded out softly -- off the board for Logan Webb with the Giants trailing just 1-0. The Astros would end up scoring four runs in the inning.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

After Heineman's second one over the course of the first week, Kapler said the staff had asked the rookie to get closer to the plate for guys with big 12-6 breaking balls. But Kevin Gausman -- who had the third one called during his start in Denver -- doesn't fit that description, and neither does Webb. The issue on Monday was something else, Kapler said. 

"It's a little different with the runner in motion there. One of the adjustments (Tromp) has made has been to get his momentum going through the baseball and I think, witnessing the whole field, he probably got a little bit anxious and went out to get that ball a little bit too soon," Kapler said. "Reddcik has a tendency to lay the bat into the zone pretty early and extend so those two things lined up and he just clipped the glove."

Tromp explained it similarly. 

"My momentum took me to the ball and I think that combined with Reddick, I think he has like a long swing, and I think those two played a factor," he said. "Bad timing. I felt horrible, but that's just kind of what happened. My momentum took me into the throw, and it's just unfortunate."

If this feels like a bizarre mistake for a team to keep making, it's because it is. The Diamondbacks and Cubs led the majors last year with six catcher's interference calls in 162 games. The Giants have four in 18 games, while the other 29 teams entered play Monday with five combined. 

Asked a second question about the trend, Kapler shifted the focus. 

"I just really want to keep this as a team thing. We win as a team, we lose as a team, we stick together as a team. We make a comeback tonight against a rough reliever as a team," he said. "As a team, I think the fewer mistakes we make, the quicker we can clean up those mistakes, the more likely it is those comebacks turn into wins and not just valiant efforts."

[RELATED: Krukow believes Astros getting "free pass" this season]

As a team, the Giants have 21 errors, four more than any other team in the big leagues. They had three on Monday and should have had a fourth. Donovan Solano's whiff of the leadoff grounder in that third inning was ruled a single and got the whole thing started. 

It's surprising that the Giants , who had two encouraging camps, have kicked the ball around so often. It's also costing them wins in a season where every game is the equivalent of 2.7. The lineup scored three runs in the ninth, but too much damage had been done with the early sloppiness. 

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-4 loss to Astros

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-4 loss to Astros

BOX SCORE

The Giants have gone all-in on advanced stats, and for good reason. But sometimes you can describe a performance in the most old-school way possible and say everything you need to do. 

Through eight innings Monday night in Houston, the Giants had three errors and just two hits. There's all you need to know. 

A rally in the ninth put the tying run on first, but the hole was too deep and the Giants lost 6-4 to the Astros. This was yet another ugly performance for a team that leads the majors with 21 errors, and the lineup flirted with a no-hitter for a couple hours.

Here are three things to know from the night the Giants fell to 2-6 on the road trip ... 

Deserved Far Better

The frustration showed on Logan Webb's face throughout the third inning, and you can't blame him. Webb needed 36 pitches to get out of the frame and gave up four runs, through little fault of his own. The young right-hander got six outs, but one grounder was booted, another was wiped away by a catcher's interference (the fourth of the year by the Giants, incredibly) and a third was thrown away. 

Only two of the five runs Webb gave up were earned, meaning he has allowed just five earned in four starts this year. He's off to a good start. It would be much better if he had a functional defense behind him.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

No Backup Plan

Donovan Solano made a couple of errors at third base, and he also whiffed on Jose Altuve's grounder that was ruled a single but had a hit probability of just four percent. Solano was starting because manager Gabe Kapler wanted to give Evan Longoria a day off, but as good as he has been at the plate this year, he is miscast at the hot corner. 

The problem for the Giants is that Wilmer Flores doesn't look like he can really play there, either, and Pablo Sandoval doesn't seem like an option. Longoria is close to an everyday player, but the Giants don't really have a good alternative when they want to give him a breather. It might be worth a shot to move Mauricio Dubon over there and let Solano and Flores stay at second base.

[RELATED: Krukow believes Astros getting "free pass" this season]

Slater Tater 

Austin Slater hit a solo shot in the eighth to get the Giants on the board. It was his third homer in three days and came on a 96 mph fastball from right-handed reliever Josh James. 

The Giants didn't have a hit against McCullers until Solano pulled a double past Alex Bregman's glove with one out in the seventh. The hit gave Solano a 15-game hitting streak, the longest by a Giant since Angel Pagan went 19 games in 2016. He later added a second double.