After missing playoffs for 2nd straight year, Giants dismiss Kapler

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants announced Friday that manager Gabe Kapler has been dismissed in the wake of a disastrous September collapse that left them out of the playoff picture for the second consecutive year.

Kapler earned NL Manager of the Year honors after helping to steer the Giants to a franchise-record 107 wins in 2021, but the club fell short of expectations in subsequent seasons, going 81-81 last year and then fading down the stretch this year.

The Giants held the third and final NL Wild Card spot when they embarked on their final road trip of the season, but their playoff hopes evaporated after they went 2-8 against the Rockies, D-backs and Dodgers. They ended up dropping 28 of their final 34 road games and fell to 8-18 in September following their 6-2 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night, sealing their fifth losing season in the last seven years.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he met with Kapler on Friday to inform him of the decision. Bench coach Kai Correa will serve as the interim manager for the final three games of the season.

“We played our worst baseball when it mattered the most,” Zaidi said. “We have a lot of work to figure out why that happened. But for us, we felt like step one was making that change. I think we’re looking for new and different leadership in our clubhouse. A different dynamic there. I think there’s a lot of responsibility to go around and a lot of sense of accountability for what’s happened today, starting with me.

“I know that it’s ultimately my job to put a product on the field that our organization is proud of and that our fans are proud of. Frankly, it just hasn’t happened the last couple of years. That’s been difficult for me. It’s been difficult for a lot of people. I also feel very determined to fix it. I think collectively we can fix it. We’re just not satisfied with how things have gone the past couple of years. I know I have to think about things differently. I know we as an organization have to do things differently. A lot of those things are difficult, starting with the move today.”

The writing was on the wall when Zaidi said the organization had to “rethink everything” during a revealing interview with KNBR on Thursday. Zaidi reiterated that it was his call to ax Kapler, who was in his fourth season with the club and had one year remaining on his contract. The Giants went 295-248 under Kapler, though they reached the playoffs only once during his stead.

“I don’t have one negative thing to say about Gabe Kapler -- not just as a person, but from a professional standpoint -- during his time with us,” Zaidi said. “For me, he’s thoughtful, he’s creative, he’s incredibly hardworking. He’s loyal, he’s diligent. He’s really passionate about this game. He was passionate about the job that he had and did. We obviously reached some really high highs during his tenure here. I think that’s in a way what makes it so difficult for us to be here and have to turn the page on his tenure.”

Kapler, who was previously fired by the Phillies after posting an underwhelming 161-163 record over his two seasons in Philadelphia, was an unpopular choice when he was hired to replace Bruce Bochy in November 2019, though he emerged as a progressive figure after making Alyssa Nakken the first full-time female coach in the Majors and kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice and systemic racism in America during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.

Kapler managed to secure key buy-in from veterans like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford during the Giants’ surprisingly successful 2021 campaign, but his hands-off approach in the clubhouse ultimately couldn’t halt the club’s September spiral, which was trademarked by a punchless offense, poor defense and a lack of accountability among players.

The late-season collapse prompted staff ace Logan Webb to call for “big changes in here to really create that winning culture” and “winning mentality” throughout the organization.

“I don’t think we did the best job for him,” Webb said Friday. “At the end of the day, it’s part of the business. As a team we haven’t done a very good job these last two years.”

“Definitely some shock,” outfielder Austin Slater said. “I think this is just what happens when you lose baseball games. We’ve severely underperformed the last month and a half, two months. Honestly, probably since the All-Star break. It’s a combination of sloppy baseball, poor offense and our pitching that we were riding for most of the year started to show some holes. All around, there’s not one point on the team or one person or one group to blame.”

Zaidi said he hopes to have a new manager in place before the start of free agency, which will open five days after the conclusion of the 2023 World Series. Potential candidates to replace Kapler include third-base coach Mark Hallberg, a close friend of part-owner Buster Posey; longtime coach and current special assistant to the front office Ron Wotus; Rangers coaches Will Venable and Donnie Ecker, both of whom hail from the Bay Area; and former A’s skipper Bob Melvin, who could become available if the Padres decide to make a managerial change of their own.

“Being the manager of the San Francisco Giants is, I think, one of the most attractive jobs in baseball and professional sports,” Zaidi said. “I think people know that they’d be stepping into a great situation here with a great franchise, great ownership group. A lot of really good young players that we’ve seen for the first time this year. I think we’re going to go cast a wide net. I think there’s going to be a lot of interest.”

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