Michael Conforto

Conforto believes Giants players, not Kapler, deserve blame for collapse

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Michael Conforto believes the Giants players have nobody to blame but themselves for the team's second-half collapse to close out the 2023 MLB season.

Sitting 12 games over .500 on Aug. 3, the Giants (61-49) were just 2.5 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West and had the third-best overall record in the league while maintaining sole possession of the first wild-card spot.

Then it all came crashing down.

San Francisco finished the season with an abysmal 18-34 record over its remaining 52 games and plummeted out of the playoff picture, which resulted in manager Gabe Kapler's firing before the final series of the season.

Conforto joined KNBR 680's "Murph & Mac" on Thursday, where he was asked about the Giants' second-half collapse and if he was surprised that it resulted in the firing of his manager.

"Unfortunately that's kind of the nature of the game," Conforto said. "And I can tell you, it weighed on the players as well. We're the ones out there not executing on the field, not getting our job done toward the end of the season and the hammer kind of falls on Kap. That's not fun for anybody in the organization. I always really respected Kap, I appreciated his consistency, him showing up and being the same guy every day.

"I think at the end of the day, at the end of the season, the players, we just didn't go out there and perform and we were battling injuries. We were a little banged up at the end of the year. But really there's no excuse, you have to go out there and make the plays, do your job, execute. We just didn't do that, so that's kind of a learning experience for us. We've got to find ways to show up at the end of the season when games mean the most. I think that leaves us pretty motivated."

The Giants watched as the division-rival and 84-win Arizona Diamondbacks steamrolled their way through the postseason and into the World Series before losing to the Texas Rangers in five games. Conforto can envision a scenario in which that could have been the Giants had they not struggled mightily down the stretch.

"Knowing what we had, knowing what kind of position we were in in August and seeing really who ended up in the World Series," Conforto said. "That just as easily could have been us had we just continued to play decent baseball, play the way we were playing throughout the middle part of that season. It just shows, if you get hot at the right time you can really make a run at the World Series."

Conforto will return to the Giants in 2024 after officially opting into the second year of the contract he signed last offseason. Now under the leadership of veteran manager Bob Melvin, Conforto is eager to get to know the team's new skipper.

"We talked briefly, very briefly," Conforto said of his interactions with Melvin this offseason. "This was before I opted in, he was just reaching out saying no pressure, but he's admired my game and admired how I was able to come back after missing a year and was hoping he'd have me back on the team, which was great.

"I've heard only really really positive things from players around the league, guys I know. Obviously, I've been in the other dugout across from him. I don't know him very well, but I'm looking forward to making that relationship close and seeing what all the hype is about. It's good to have another Bay Area guy back and a guy who knows what this team means to this area and to the Bay Area and I always think that's a special thing."

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