SAN FRANCISCO -- Two years after Gabe Kapler was named the National League Manager of the Year, the Giants are searching for a new leader.
The organization on Friday fired Kapler, who had one year remaining on an extension he signed after the 2021 season. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said that day that it was a high priority for the Giants to commit to "a level of stability and certainty to our continued partnership," but very little has gone well for the organization in the two years since.
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The Giants, once 13 games above .500, fell apart in the second half and are currently 78-81 and in fourth place in the NL West. Even as the final week started, team officials said publicly and privately that they expected both Zaidi and Kapler back in 2024, but ultimately, the final two months of the season proved to be so disappointing that someone needed to take the fall.
Hired before the 2019 season, Kapler missed the playoffs in three of his four seasons in San Francisco. The exception was 2021, when the Giants won 107 games and stunned the industry by edging the Los Angeles Dodgers for the division title. That earned Kapler an extension, but the Giants finished 81-81 the following season, and this year's collapse was accompanied by public comments from respected players who questioned the organization's preparation, energy and commitment to building a winning culture.
The decision comes after a second-half slide that covered nearly all facets of the game. The Giants were well over .500 for most of the summer and just 2 1/2 games out of first in their division on August 1, but they proved just about incapable of winning on the road over the next two months, got embarrassed on a crucial late-season road trip, and got eliminated from the wild card race with Tuesday's loss.
The Giants have had the worst offense in baseball since the start of July, and their defense has taken a step back in recent weeks. They set a franchise record for strikeouts and lead the big leagues in errors, and while the pitching was able to keep the rest of the team afloat for much of the summer, they ultimately paid for having just two reliable starters.
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Even with the lackluster play in August, the Giants entered September in a good spot, and Kapler had the support of management. With Wednesday's loss, though, the Giants are just 8-17 in September. They need to win out just to reach .500, and there's a strong chance that they finish fourth in their division.
Perhaps just as damning was a perception that the clubhouse culture needed to change, one that Zaidi said he would take to heart on an appearance with KNBR this week. Earlier in the week, Kapler said he appreciated that players were speaking out and he agreed that the standard was not being reached. He said he "absolutely" understood the way everything reflected on the man in charge.
"That's my job," Kapler said. "I definitely do (wear that). Everything that happens in the clubhouse, everything that happens on this baseball field, that's what I signed up for to be responsible for."
For Kapler, this is not new. He was fired after just two seasons in Philadelphia under similar circumstances, with that team underachieving in September and failing to live up to expectations. Many of criticisms were the same. That he relied too heavily on analytics and not his gut. That he failed to connect with those around him. That he ran a loose ship, failing to hold players accountable.
Perhaps just as crucially to ownership, Kapler had a difficult time connecting with the fan base. His initial press conference in 2019 was controversial, and while he was extremely active in the community, this front office and staff has been unable to resonate the way the previous regime did.
For Kapler, that means a second firing in four years, and for the Giants, a second managerial search since Zaidi took over. Four years after he made Kapler his handpicked choice to take over for Bruce Bochy, Zaidi is looking for a new partner, and doing so with the knowledge that he won't get a third chance.