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‘A good bit of it’: Gabe Kapler takes responsibility for tough 2023 season



© Sergio Estrada | 2023 Sep 25

With an official postseason elimination and Logan Webb’s “big changes” comments reverberating through Giantsland, manager Gabe Kapler took accountability for the club’s failed season in his daily pregame meeting with the media. 

“A good bit of it,” Kapler said when asked how much responsibility he bears for the 2023 failed season.

Before the season, Kapler and many within the organization believed this roster had as much or even more talent than the 107-win, 2021 club. Though Kapler approached his job in the same manner as he did that year — both with in-game strategy and behind-the-scenes leadership — he didn’t maximize this team’s potential as much as he did when he earned the National League Manager of the Year award. 

“At this time of year, the number one thing any individual around here can do is look in the mirror and think about the things we could’ve done better,” Kapler said. “I think you’re right, there’s a lot of players on our roster that feel like there’s more in the tank. So I’m always going to challenge myself to figure out how to get the best out of them going forward. Look back and say that I’m disappointed in how things went, but I think we can and should be better.” 

Kapler is entering the last year of his contract, and chairman Greg Johnson has repeatedly told outlets that he expects both the manager and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi back for next year. 

Still, the Giants’ recent play is at least partly a reflection of the club’s leadership. The team was 10 games over .500 at the trade deadline, but Zaidi didn’t make a major move to improve the club for a playoff push. Still with a puncher’s chance to sneak into a wild card spot, the Giants lost three of four in Colorado and both games in Phoenix to the Diamondbacks during a 2-8 road trip. 

The blame certainly shouldn’t fall solely on Kapler or Zaidi. Several veterans — Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, Joc Pederson, Brandon Crawford, Ross Stripling and Anthony DeSclafani — either underperformed or were unavailable due to injuries. 

Everyone, to use Kapler’s phrasing, can “look in the mirror.” Yet shouldering blame is practically included in any MLB manager’s job description.

“I think my number one responsibility to the clubhouse is to be there for our coaches, to be there for our players, to be there for everybody that’s under the clubhouse roof,” Kapler said. “That includes all the departments that we’ve talked about. I continue to have as many conversations every day as I possibly can. Sometimes I feel like I run out of time. Maybe I need to organize even better, continue to work toward being there for our team. That’s always going to be the biggest challenge.” 

Kapler shared a few things that he feels he can improve upon, with a focus on doing whatever he can to get the best out of all his players. Tailoring individual preparations to every player’s preferences — and finding what works for everyone via conversations — is a key. 

While Kapler was in the batting cage before Wednesday’s game, he said he was talking to players about how some Giants have had good years, but are capable of having “phenomenal” years. 

To a degree, Kapler needs to help players be their best selves. But it’s also on the players themselves. 

“I mean, look, I think this is going to be true for any coach of a major franchise: you’re going to have a laundry list of things that you can do better,” Kapler said. “And if you’re not looking at it that way, if you’re not looking at it in a very self-critical way, you’re probably not going to be very good at this job…Getting back to my point — again, I can talk a lot about the ways that I think I need to improve as a leader, as a manager, as somebody that all the players and staff in there look to for support.” 

  • The Giants plan on both Logan Webb and Kyle Harrison making their final starts of the season this weekend against the Dodgers.

    Both starters have surpassed their career-highs in innings, but each are fully capable of taking the mound. Harrison will have ample rest, given he got scratched due to illness Tuesday and the fact that his workload was managed all season. Webb, meanwhile, is hanging tough in the National League Cy Young race and definitely will want to take the ball.
  • J.D. Davis, who suffered a shoulder strain during Tuesday night’s loss, isn’t in the Giants’ starting lineup. The injury sounds minor, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Davis could hit the injured list to clear a roster spot for a player like Casey Schmitt to finish out the season.

  • A San Diego Union-Tribune article printed Wednesday detailed the fractured relationship between Padres manager Bob Melvin and president of baseball operations A.J. Preller. One anonymous source described their relationship as a “civil war.”

    Difficulties within the Padres organization have been well-documented this year as the club vastly underperformed their great expectations (and third-ranked payroll).

    Melvin and Kapler are each entering the final year of their contracts in 2024.