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Kapler lays out grand plans as new SF skipper

@mi_guardado
November 13, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- New Giants manager Gabe Kapler had to wait until the 57th round to be drafted by the Tigers in 1995, so late that he initially thought he hadn’t been drafted at all. He received no phone call, no official notice that his professional baseball career had begun.

SAN FRANCISCO -- New Giants manager Gabe Kapler had to wait until the 57th round to be drafted by the Tigers in 1995, so late that he initially thought he hadn’t been drafted at all. He received no phone call, no official notice that his professional baseball career had begun.

Forty-eight hours later, Kapler attended a scout league game in Santa Barbara, Calif., where the man putting on the event asked him if he planned on signing. Until then, Kapler had no idea that was even an option.

So yes, Kapler knows what it feels like to be written off. He’s used that as motivation throughout his career, working relentlessly to make an impact over his 12-year playing career, his stint as the Dodgers’ director of player development, and most recently, his two seasons as manager of the Phillies.

There have been a few high-profile stumbles along the way, though, some of which have clouded his arrival to San Francisco. Kapler’s challenge now will be not only to work with president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris to build the Giants back into a perennial contender, but also to build trust among the fans who view him as a polarizing choice to replace Bruce Bochy.

“I feel like I'm in a little bit of a hole,” Kapler admitted Wednesday during his introductory press conference at Oracle Park. “And yes, that means something to me. I think I would probably just use it as an opportunity to to roll up my sleeves a little bit more, to dig in a little bit more to really find out what the issues are, to find out why I have had some of those issues. So far, I have not been a popular hire. I don't think I know everything. I don't think that I've made every perfect step. I made a lot of mistakes, but I think one of the things that you'll find out about me is that I'm pretty good at making adjustments.”

During their 20-minute opening statements, the Giants’ new brain trust addressed concerns stemming from reports that emerged earlier this year that Kapler mishandled assault allegations against two Dodgers Minor Leaguers during his tenure as the club’s director of player development. Both Zaidi, who was the Dodgers’ general manager at the time of the allegations, and Kapler expressed remorse for their inadequate responses to those incidents.

“I think what we've come to understand is, this is not a situation where these incidents and what you do afterwards are just about protecting victims, but really about supporting [them],” Zaidi said. “And I don't think we did enough in that regard. I've had to reflect on that, and I'm truly sorry that I didn't do more.”

Added Kapler: “I think this is the right time to say that I'm sorry that I didn't make all the right moves. Everything that I did, I acted on from a place of goodness and from my heart and wanting to do the right thing, but I was naive. I was in over my skis and trying to do things on my own when it was very clear that I needed counsel. I needed counsel from people like I've met in this community over the course of the last two weeks. Going forward, I would be seeking out that counsel.”

Kapler is expected to have another key resource at his disposal as well. He said he spoke with Bochy as part of his interview process and hopes to continue to lean on his predecessor, who led the Giants to three World Series championships over his 13 seasons in San Francisco.

"It is going to be impossible for me to fill Bruce Bochy's shoes,” Kapler said. “It's not something that I'm going to set out to try to do. He's a Hall of Fame manager, beloved in this city and across baseball for so many totally appropriate reasons.

"One of the things we talked about in our conversation was, his second time managing was better than his first time, and he made a lot of adjustments along the way. One of the things I'm going to set out to do is spend a lot of time with Boch and learn as much as I can about the things that he learned."

The Giants are counting on Kapler’s second run as manager to be more successful than his first. The Phillies went 161-163 (.497) in their two seasons under Kapler, leading to his dismissal last month. Still, Zaidi said he received a flood of text messages from Phillies players and personnel supporting Kapler’s candidacy and expressed confidence that Kapler will be able to parlay his “growth mindset” into greater success with the Giants.

Kapler also received an endorsement from Buster Posey, who was the only Giants player in attendance for the hour-long press conference. Posey was involved in the interview process and said he has detected some parallels between Kapler and Bochy, the only manager he’s known until now.

“Something he said today that is very similar to Boch is he wants players to be themselves,” Posey said. “I think that’s an approach Boch took a lot, or all the time. You can look back to some of our teams from 2010 to ‘16. I feel like maybe we’ve gotten a little stagnant here the last few years.”

Kapler said he hopes to create a culture of accountability in the Giants' clubhouse while also giving players room to be active participants in the discussion. He said the biggest lesson he learned in Philadelphia was how to incorporate analytics into his in-game strategy without eroding the confidence of his players.

“Sometimes, a confident player is a better baseball player,” Kapler said. “That outweighs the strategic advantage you get of calling just the right pitch at the right time.”

After his dismissal from the Phillies, Kapler also had the opportunity to interview with the Cubs for the opening that ultimately went to David Ross. Still, Kapler said the Giants’ vacancy appealed to him more because it felt like a blank slate. He’s looking forward to getting to work.

“I'm very excited about foundation building,” Kapler said. “I know that the fanbase in San Francisco is not interested in winning once and then going away. Building a foundation that can create a sustainable winning culture, year in, year out, competing for National League West titles, is something that I'm very excited about.

“Part of the reason I was so attracted to this job is because I trust Farhan and I trust Scott and their ability to build not just a Major League club through going out and acquiring free agents, but a sustainable foundation. I'm really excited about being a part of that.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.