Why Giants, new manager Gabe Kapler think so highly of Rays organization

Why Giants, new manager Gabe Kapler think so highly of Rays organization

SAN FRANCISCO -- If Farhan Zaidi wouldn't have accepted the job last November, the Giants very likely would have turned to Chaim Bloom, then the vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays. A year later, Gabe Kapler was chosen over two other finalists for the manager job, including Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro. 

It's no accident that the front office keeps looking to Tampa Bay in a quest to find a new and better approach, and their new leadership team has Rays connections, too. Zaidi was hired in Los Angeles by Andrew Friedman, who came over from the Rays. Kapler played his final two big league seasons in Tampa Bay. 

Asked earlier this month if there are specific strategies he wants to implement with a younger Giants team in 2020, Kapler brought up his former team. 

"Farhan has a tendency to be experimental. I know the guys in Los Angeles have a tendency to be experimental, as well," Kapler said. "I think an organization that we all think pretty highly of that's doing great things in the industry is the Tampa Bay Rays. I think Tampa is a really good model for being creative around strategic decisions. Things like you mentioned, like the opener, how to use relievers maybe in more high-leverage situations relative to having very set, specific roles."

The Rays are not the only organization on the frontline of innovation, but they get the most credit because they've gone furthest in big league games, and they continue to win despite one of the lower payrolls in the league. Tampa Bay went 96-66 last season, finishing 15 games better than the Phillies and 19 ahead of the Giants, who want to embrace new strategies while also having the payroll to dominate in more traditional methods of player acquisition. 

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With Zaidi in charge, the Giants did try some new things last season. They used an opener once and tried a four-man outfield with Joe Panik standing in right. At the minor league level, they used openers, piggybacked starters at times, and experimented with four-man outfields and different shifts. 

A big part of that was to get future Giants on board with new methods, and Kapler said communication will be key as he tries new things.

"All those conversations have to happen before those kind of experiments are put into motion," Kapler said. "Because, if they're all for it and the strategic decision makes sense, sure I think that's a really cool strategy to deploy. But if a guy is like, oh man, I don't feel like I can get ready for a game to come in in the second or third inning, it might take a little bit more work before you're ready to use that guy in that situation."

For more from Kapler on his early thoughts on the Giants, you can listen to him on The Giants Insider podcast. 

Giants' Gabe Kapler challenged GM Scott Harris to play 'MLB The Show'


Giants' Gabe Kapler challenged GM Scott Harris to play 'MLB The Show'

Preparations for the 2020 MLB season have taken some creative forms with games pushed back by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler told KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" earlier this week he was staying sharp by playing "MLB The Show 20." Kapler's apparently so hooked on Sony's signature baseball simulation that he has tried recruiting some of San Francisco's front office to join him.

The pitch didn't work on first-year Giants general manager Scott Harris.

"All I know is that Gabe challenged me to a game the other day," Harris told "The Murph & Mac Show" on Thursday morning. "He told me to go buy a [PlayStation 4] and get the game, and he wanted to battle-test some new in-game strategies. And I told him that the peak of my video-game career was 'Mario Kart' on [the Nintendo 64], so I was woefully unqualified to play 'The Show.' "

Harris confessed he wasn't much of a gamer growing up, as his parents didn't allow video games in their household. That led to him getting "absolutely smoked" when he would play video games with his friends, but not to him making up for lost time as an adult.

The No. 2 in the Giants' front office is all in favor of San Francisco's players and coaches taking up "The Show." Harris said he was happy with how people throughout the organization are navigating "uncharted territory."

"I think there's a lot of stuff that we can be doing right now," Harris said. "We're investing in a lot of systems in some of the infrastructure that we're building here with the Giants. We're finding some of the developmental processes and some of the evaluative processes are hopefully gonna lay the groundwork for future trades, or signings or draft picks."

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Harris is getting used to his and the Giants' new normal with play suspended. It could be a while longer before the season begins, after MLB and the players association agreed they wouldn't play until fans attending games don't pose a health risk.

The Giants' front office is laying the groundwork for the season whenever it does start. So are the players and coaches, and that apparently includes a lot of "The Show."

"I never really thought I'd work in a world where video games are actually a part of preparing yourself for a season," he said, "but everyone's staying creative and productive in their own ways."

Zac Efron reveals epic Dusty Baker autograph story as young Giants fan

Zac Efron reveals epic Dusty Baker autograph story as young Giants fan

When he was the Giants' manager, Dusty Baker might not have realized it at the time, but he was signing a ball for someone who would one day become one of the most well-known actors in Hollywood.

All he knew was a young kid with bleached hair wanted his autograph. That fan was Zac Efron.

Efron, a longtime Giants fan, recently told a story about his encounter with Baker on an episode of "Hot Ones."

Without skipping a beat, Efron talked about a special baseball he has that was signed by the former skipper. But there was a fun story behind it. 

"He drove by, and he was on a motorcycle, so he didn't have a window he could roll up," Efron said. "I ran up to him with a baseball, and I was like 'Will you sign this?' I had a blue pen and the sweet spot of a brand-new ball, and I showed it to him, and Dusty was like 'Ah, I can't right now, I gotta go to church.'"

Efron said after hearing that response, he assumed that just meant Baker didn't have time to sign the ball, even though he said he would be back in 30 minutes.

Baker left. Efron was sure the three-time Manager of the Year wouldn't return, but Baker and his motorcycle did 45 minutes later.

"I was like, 'No way!'" Efron recalled. "And he literally pointed right at me, and was like, 'Come over here.'"

The "High School Musical" star got his autograph. It meant a lot to him that Baker made the return trip to give him that signature. And I'm sure the motorcycle was a nice extra touch. 

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"It was really cool," Efron described. 

Baker was the Giants' manager for a decade from 1993-02 and finished with an 840-715 record. He's now managing the Houston Astros.