Gabe Kapler is sticking to routine in his first full offseason as manager of the Giants. He wakes up early, grabs some coffee, and makes the walk to Oracle Park to begin a day full of calls and Zooms.
Kapler is currently deep into the process of hiring a replacement for Ethan Katz, the well-regarded assistant pitching coach who recently took the top job with the Chicago White Sox.
At some point during those days, though, Kapler's mind surely wanders. It would be hard for any Giant to walk into Oracle Park right now and not think of how close the organization came to making the postseason.
During an appearance on KNBR on Wednesday night, Kapler was asked by host Mark Willard if he had processed the way it all ended, with the Giants losing three straight to the Padres to miss their shot at a first-round series with the Dodgers. Kapler said he's not quite there yet.
"I don't actually think you're fully over it until you step foot into our clubhouse in Scottsdale in spring training," Kapler said. "You slowly deal with it over the course of time, you try to remember that our club did a really nice job through some really difficult times and overcame some obstacles and probably outperformed the expectations of many people."
"You try to remember that, and at the same time, it was pretty bitter at the end and it stung quite a bit."
"In the dugout, it was really difficult at the end. It is certainly a motivator. You remember what that felt like, you don't want to experience it again."
The Giants finished 29-31, a record that was better than most predicted and put them in a spot for some unexpected pain. Instead of focusing on the rebuild, their September was spent chasing a spot in the expanded postseason. They came up one win short.
This was the closest in Kapler's three years as a manager that he has gotten to the playoffs, but he spent a long time as a big-league outfielder and knows this feeling well. He said his most devastating loss as a player came in 2003, when Kapler's Red Sox were knocked out of the ALCS by Aaron Boone's famous walk-off homer. A year later, the Red Sox won the World Series.
"I'm not trying to compare the '03 Red Sox to the 2020 Giants," Kapler said. "What I am saying is you use a difficult time in the game to motivate you to get better and to get back to the grind to work harder, to prepare better. That's how we're thinking about the end of the 2020 season."