Stunning season earns Kapler NL MOY

November 17th, 2021

Gabe Kapler continued to reap the rewards of a 107-win season Tuesday as he was named National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, becoming just the second manager in Giants history to capture the award.

Kapler received 28 first-place votes, totaling 143 points. The Brewers’ Craig Counsell finished second, while former Cardinals manager Mike Shildt came in third.

“I think he deserves to win Manager of the Year," Giants GM Scott Harris recently said of Kapler. "I think he did a phenomenal job. The results speak for themselves. I think Kap’s pregame preparation is excellent, but what makes Kap special is his commitment to making adjustments to new information from coaches, players and what the game is telling him. I think he brings a competitive advantage to our dugout every time he steps out there. I think he’s a huge reason why we won 107 games this year.”

The award comes less than a week after Kapler was given a two-year contract extension which will tie him to the Giants through the 2024 season.

Kapler was hired to replace Bruce Bochy following the 2019 season after having spent two seasons managing the Phillies, where he went 161-163.

Bochy announced Kapler as the winner on the MLB Network broadcast, a development that was both unexpected and welcomed by Kapler.

"That was really awesome," Kapler said. "I didn't know Boch was going to be presenting the award on MLB Network and he just sort of appeared on my screen and I was like, 'There's Boch, that's probably a good sign.' Boch has been incredibly gracious with me since I came to the Giants a couple of years ago. He made my transition easy and he's one of the greatest managers, if not the greatest manager, in Giants history and I'm just honored to be associated [with him]."

After going 29-31 and narrowly missing out on the playoffs in 2020, the Giants were the surprise team of baseball in 2021. They were forecast to win 75 games by Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections entering the season.

Instead, they went 107-55 and held off the defending world champion Dodgers, who won 106 games, to capture their first NL West title since 2012.

San Francisco eventually fell to the Dodgers in a taut, five-game NL Division Series.

Kapler was praised by his players for maintaining open lines of communication with them throughout the regular season, an important aspect for any manager, but it was especially important given the way the Giants utilized their entire roster in order to optimize every possible matchup. San Francisco shattered the record for pinch-hit appearances as Kapler exploited right-left matchups aggressively.

A champion for diversity, Kapler assembled an innovative coaching staff that not only helped get the most out of Giants players, but also featured several coaches from underrepresented communities.

Kapler hired Alyssa Nakken, the first woman to serve as a full-time coach for a Major League team, and recently added a Spanish-speaking hitting coach in Pedro Guerrero and a native of Japan in Taira Uematsu, who was the Giants’ longtime bullpen catcher before being promoted to assistant coach recently.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, especially in baseball, and many teams have looked to the Giants as a model when reshaping their own coaching staffs this offseason.

"I also feel like we've built one of the most diverse staffs in baseball," Kapler said. "And if there's anything that I think is worthy of being emulated, it's that. It's getting a wide variety of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, and baseball upbringings into our group so that every player on our club has somebody to connect with and somebody to relate to. I believe that diversity is critically important in baseball and [so is] helping people from marginalized groups get into decision-making positions in baseball. Part of the reason I think that's important is because I think a more diverse group of people, of humans, make better decisions as a group."

Dusty Baker is the only other Giants manager to win the Manager of the Year Award, which he captured in 1993, '97 and 2000. Now with the Astros, Baker was a finalist for the 2021 American League Manager of the Year Award, placing third behind the Rays’ Kevin Cash and the Mariners’ Scott Servais.