Nevius: Giants' Farhan Zaidi puts self in tight spot with manager hire
The managerial announcement last week at Willie Mays Plaza has been well covered.
A short synopsis: The Giants’ director of baseball, Farhan Zaidi, put his finger in the air, checked prevailing winds and then walked into a wood chipper.
Zaidi decided, despite ample input from second-guessers, to hire Gabe Kapler. Kapler is quirky, which is fine in San Francisco, but some of his blog posts are wince-worthy. He is wildly unpopular on social media. Also, he was fired at Philadelphia after just two years.
But most of all, when he was with the Dodgers, he completely mishandled a messy assault (and, it later turned out, sexual assault) on two women by Dodgers minor league players. And, by the way, it turns out that Zaidi, then with the Dodgers, was part of the front office that also botched the issue.
So it is worth speculating. Why would Zaidi do this? He knew the deal. They were going to have to start a job announcement with an apology. And he even ended up dragging himself into the mire.
What we hope, of course, is that this isn’t an example of “the Houston Astros model.” In another well-covered story, a Houston assistant general manager was fired after a bizarre post-playoff game rant in which he shouted to female reporters how glad they were to get “Osuna.” The reference is to pitcher Roberto Osuna, who had been suspended 75 games for domestic assault.
The kicker is that stories later appeared implying that the team was not only pleased with the Osuna deal, but in a warped way they thought the domestic assault charges were an ?advantage because it kept some teams from getting involved.
That kind of anything-for-a-win mentality wouldn’t fly here. Surely, Zaidi didn’t think the assault stories were no big deal, did he?
What is more likely, I think, is he is rolling the dice. He really believes Kapler when he says, “I don’t expect to gain your trust in this press conference, but over time I will.”
It must be said that each man had practiced his sword-falling-upon skills. Speaking as someone who is neither an expert in abuse cases nor female, I thought they did about as well as they could.
There was almost the feeling that Zaidi welcomed the chance to make a formal apology. That this might have been something that had been bothering him and this was a way to help make it right.
Both were contrite, unsparing and accepted blame without qualification. Kapler went off on a detour about talking to his mom about important things, but then hit the right note - he realizes now he’s not equipped to handle these problems. He should immediately bring in experts.
Zaidi essentially said he was disappointed he was part of a group that rather than making the moral decision made the expedient one, saying to the women, “You don’t want to go to the police? OK, fine.”
“It’s not just about protecting the victim,” Zaidi said. “It’s about supporting.”
So that raises the question, how many times can we ask them this? Sooner or later doesn’t it become asked and answered? There is certainly no ambiguity in these answers. They screwed up. They admit it. They pledge never to be so insensitive again.
So, at some point before the traditional spring training red robin appears, we’re going to have to talk some baseball. (Unless Kapler posts another too-revealing selfie. Then all bets are off.)
Baseball-wise, what did Zaidi see in Kapler? For starters, Zaidi and GM Scott Harris referenced an impressive outpouring of complimentary texts and emails from the Philadelphia organization, both players and management.
Which is fine, but they fired him. So …
What seems more likely is that Zaidi is focusing on qualities we heard over and over heard about Kapler. His good relationship with his players, what a good communicator he is.
And Kapler saying, “What this clubhouse needs is energy and enthusiasm.”
As we’ve noted here before, recent Giant clubhouses have not exactly been buzzing. People would walk in after a game, step into the silence and instinctively lower their voice.
In contrast, Kapler described a scene in the Phillies clubhouse where a group of players were gathered around a locker having a beer. (Good story, Gabe, but I don’t think the Giants have beer in the clubhouse anymore.)
“Confidence” was another word that kept coming up.
There were nods when he said, “A confident player is a better baseball player. That outweighs the numbers.”
He told a story about how even if the analytics say it is time for a curve, if the pitcher firmly believes in his fastball, he’ll let him throw the heater.
Another buzzword was “development.”
“We want to create a culture that promotes and encourages development,” Harris said.
So just to take a wild guess, let’s surmise Zaidi felt the Giants needed enthusiasm, energy and confidence. And he is convinced Kapler is the guy to bring that.
And he’s convinced that over time, we will see that too.
The clock starts now.
Contact C.W. Nevius at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @cwnevius