Gabe Kapler

Kapler defending Giants rookie Meckler led to rare ejection

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler doesn't believe in ejections. He doesn't believe that there's usually much to be gained from putting on a show, and in his four years with the Giants, he has almost gone out of his way to remain calm in the dugout. 

Kapler wasn't tossed until his third year in orange and black, and he has just seven in 888 career games in a dugout, with just three of those coming in his 504 games as Giants manager. But sometimes you have to send a message beyond just that night's game, and that was the case on Tuesday.

Rookie outfielder Wade Meckler has an eye at the plate that puts him alongside Brandon Belt and LaMonte Wade Jr., who might as well call their own zones. It will lead to plenty of frustration as long as balls and strikes are called by humans, and Meckler experienced that as soon as he was called up.

He dealt with a wide zone on Monday while striking out twice in his debut and then again in the first inning Tuesday, when he took two strikes that were outside of the zone. Meckler pursed his lips and gently shook his head, but when he was hit with another missed call in the fourth, Kapler exploded.

Kapler wasn't around for most of a 7-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, having been sent off after yelling at home plate umpire Chad Whitson from the dugout. He came out and got his money's worth before watching the rest of the game from the batting cage.

"I thought in last night's game, he got F'd a few times, and in tonight's game it was also clear," Kapler said. "I do think he's going to know the zone well and I think he's going to make good swing decisions at the plate. That's sort of been his calling card all the way through his career."

The ejection had a short-term purpose, showing Meckler that his manager had his back. But Kapler is surely hoping it pays off long-term, too. 

While Meckler is similar to Belt and Wade in a lot of ways, he has less margin for error. He doesn't have as much power, so he'll be especially reliant on making good swing decisions and putting up high averages and on-base percentages. If he ends up in a corner outfield spot long-term, that'll be even more important. 

Eventually, word will get around the league that Meckler has a special eye. But it certainly won't hurt if Kapler accelerates that process a bit with umpires. 

Before that second at-bat, Kapler called Meckler over and told him that it was fine to argue his case a bit as long as he was respectful about it. He also told him not to alter his approach.

"Don't change, be crazy-stubborn, and over the course of time it will really serve you well," he said. "LaMonte is a perfect example of that. He basically ran a .415 on-base percentage for the first several months of the season because he was just stubborn in the strike zone. There were some days when he didn't get the calls in his favor as well, but over the course of time, if you do what LaMonte, Brandon Belt, Wade Meckler and others do -- which is control the strike zone, be stubborn to your approach and your plan -- over the course of time you're going to get on base more times."

Meckler did end up reaching twice, lining a single up the middle in his third at-bat and then using his speed to beat out a slow roller to second. The two-hit night took a lot of the sting out of the early strikeouts, which he called "frustrating." Meckler said the number one emotion after his hit was simply relief. 

The singles put a batting average on the scoreboard for a player who hit .377 in the minors, earning a promotion after just 92 games. If he keeps hitting anywhere close to that pace at the big league level, he's going to have a long career, and umpires will learn that his eye is his greatest skill.

For now, Meckler is a 23-year-old rookie trying to prove he belongs, so it's helpful that someone took up his case. 

"I don't want to come off as disrespectful to (the umpires) and say anything. Even if I say it in a respectful way they might say I've played two Major League games," Meckler said. "I think you just keep making the right swing decisions and eventually build a reputation that I know what the strike zone is, and if I say something, there's a cause behind it."

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