SAN FRANCISCO -- When he finished a lengthy session with reporters on Friday afternoon, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi retreated to the clubhouse and went to Gabe Kapler's office.
Kapler's guitar still sat in the corner. The bar cart that sneaks into the view of cameras during so many postgame interviews was still stocked. Everything looked normal, but Zaidi returned to the clubhouse knowing he'll never again sit in that office and discuss baseball with the man who was his hand-picked choice to lead the Giants into the future.
Earlier Friday afternoon, Zaidi met with Kapler for nearly an hour. At one point in the conversation he informed his longtime friend that his time as manager of the Giants was over. Zaidi said it was his choice, and his recommendation to ownership.
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It was a difficult conversation for Zaidi to have, and as he explained his reasoning a few hours later, the emotion still came through in his voice. But Zaidi felt it was necessary. The Giants are ready for a new voice.
"The thing that has been on my mind and on the minds of other people in this organization is, as a group, as a team, we've played our worst baseball when it mattered the most," Zaidi said. "I know you guys have been working on figuring out why that happened and there are a lot of questions (from) fans on why that happened. We have a lot of work to figure out why that happened.
"We felt step one was making this change. I think we're looking for new and different leadership in our clubhouse, a different dynamic there."
San Francisco Giants
The words "step one" were important, because Kapler's firing is only the beginning. The Giants are entering an offseason of upheaval and reflection. They disappointed in three of four seasons under Kapler, and the man in charge is well aware of the fact that it very well could have been a member of ownership sitting in that dugout on Friday talking about how both Zaidi and Kapler had been dismissed.
Zaidi said repeatedly that he needs to be accountable for the issues that led to him having to fire the first manager he hired as a lead executive.
"I know it's ultimately my job to put a product on the field that our organization is proud of and our fans are proud of and it frankly just hasn't happened the last couple of years," he said. "That's been difficult for me. It's been difficult for a lot of people. But I also feel very determined to fix it."
Zaidi will get that chance, starting over the next month when he leads the search for Kapler's replacement. They have long been viewed as a package deal, but ultimately someone had to pay for a second-half collapse.
The news did not fully surprise players, mostly just leaving them in a sad state. While Kapler had his flaws, he generally was liked by his players and those around him. Austin Slater, the second-longest tenured player on the team, pointed out that Kapler was very hands off, but he appreciated that.
"This is just what happens when you lose baseball games," he said. "We've severely underperformed the last month, month and a half, honestly since the All-Star break."
The Giants were 13 games over .500 at one point and remained right in the thick of the playoff race into September. On the first day of the month, they had a 60 percent chance of grabbing a wild-card spot. On Tuesday, they were eliminated.
The Giants will spend the coming weeks digging into what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. But on Friday, it was easy to pinpoint when this all changed.
Even this week, most within the organization operated under the belief that Zaidi and Kapler both would be back next season. But the cracks had become too large on the last road trip, when the Giants lost three of four at Coors Field and then dropped both games to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who should clinch the NL West's second postseason spot this weekend.
During those two games at Chase Field, the Giants looked old and slow, an issue for the front office more than the coaching staff. But they also looked like they didn't realize how big the games were. In the aftermath, veterans talked about the lack of edge the team possessed and a need to further commit to a culture of winning.
It can be hard for even insiders to judge whether a manager is truly doing a good job or not. But when poor play is matched by questions about preparation and the clubhouse, no manager will survive.
"Playing the way we did when we controlled our own destiny, that was hard to watch for everybody," Zaidi said. "It was hard for the players to go through, it was hard for the fans to watch, it was hard for us as an organization to watch. Again, I think that really accelerated our view that we need to make difficult decisions and think about things differently.
"I can't sort of argue against drawing a line between that road trip and how we finished the season and what we're talking about right now."