Giants considering potential changes after disappointing finish

September 29th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants appear to be mulling possible leadership changes in the wake of a disastrous September collapse that left them out of the playoff picture for the second consecutive year.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was non-committal when asked about manager Gabe Kapler’s status during his regular appearance on KNBR, noting “we have to rethink everything" after the club slipped three games under .500 (78-81) and to fourth place in the National League West entering the final weekend of the regular season.

It was a change in tone from two weeks ago, when Giants chairman Greg Johnson told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser that he expected both Zaidi and Kapler to return in 2024.

“Obviously, I think as I said at the time: I really appreciate the support from ownership, and the plan to have us both back,” Zaidi told KNBR’s Tom Tolbert and Adam Copeland on Thursday. “Right now, our focus is kind of getting through these last three games, finishing strong, finishing at .500. I think we all just have to look at how we can improve across the board. That’s the personnel on the roster, that’s our culture in the clubhouse. Which, again, I think when you’re playing well, certain things culturally are portrayed as, ‘Hey, this team loves being together, they’re having fun.’ But when you’re not doing well, those things can be seen in a negative light.

“I just think we have to look at everything. There’s sort of a time and place for everything. I’ve been talking to a few people about how 162 games is a grind, and we want our players to be comfortable being able to wash off some of the tough losses, things like that. But when you’re in do-or-die games like those games in Arizona, you want them to feel different. And I think we’re really going to have to ask ourselves if we were prepared to sort of elevate our level of focus and play for those games that really mattered down the stretch.”

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 entered Friday 8-17 in September, meaning they'd need to sweep the first-place Dodgers to avoid finishing under .500 this year.

“We played our worst baseball when it mattered the most,” Zaidi said.

The late-season spiral 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 was actually really happy to see his comments,” Zaidi told KNBR. “I felt good about it because you want to feel like you have standards. And we haven’t met the standards of the San Francisco Giants the last two seasons. If he’s calling people out, people should feel called out. I should feel called out. Because I’m responsible for the team and the success of the team, and we haven’t been at the end of this year or last year where we want to be.

“When he says big changes, that can come in a lot of different forms. We need to rethink how we’re thinking about players, how we’re thinking about putting together the roster. Our players need to think about the culture that they’re fostering. Our manager and coaching staff need to think about the culture that we have in our clubhouse. I think we’ve got to rethink everything, so I’m glad he said that.”

Kapler, who was previously fired by the Phillies after posting an underwhelming 161-163 record over his two seasons in Philadelphia, acknowledged earlier this week that he also feels “a good bit” of responsibility for the Giants’ disappointing finish.

“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 that we could have done better,” Kapler said. “I think you’re right. There’s a lot of players on our roster that I feel like there’s more in the tank. I’m always going to challenge myself to figure out how to get the best out of them going forward, and look back and say that we’re disappointed in the way things went. I think we should be better.”