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What is taking so long with Giants' manager search?

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SAN FRANCISCO — Despite knowing since February the organization would be tasked with hiring a new manager this offseason, the Giants are one of two teams left that have yet to finalize a decision.

Of the eight franchises that set out to hire a manager this fall, only the Giants and Pirates are still searching for their desired candidate.

After a horrible second half, the Pirates recently fired their team president and general manager and remain in total disarray. The Giants aren’t in shambles, but many fans have wondered what’s taking the team so long to hire their next manager.

With the vacancy remaining unfilled longer than many expected, we’re evaluating the state of the search and attempting to provide answers to the most common questions about the Giants’ process.

Where does the search currently stand?

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi indicated from the get-go that he planned to be as thorough as possible in interviewing a variety of candidates and eventually selecting Bruce Bochy’s replacement.

The Giants are reportedly down to three finalists, including former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, current Astros bench coach Joe Espada and current Royals quality control coach Pedro Grifol. With MLB’s general manager meetings looming next week, it would make sense for the Giants to complete their search by the end of this week.

Zaidi has already met in person with each of the three finalists at least twice and it’s possible he’s spent part of this week engaging in a third round of discussions. It shouldn’t take much longer to settle on a hire.

Why has the search taken so long?

It’s actually mildly surprising six other teams reached decisions so quickly, in part because interviewing a wide range of candidates should give executives insight into how other teams conduct their business.

By interviewing Mark Kotsay of the A’s, Matt Quatraro of the Rays, Will Venable of the Cubs and Espada of the Astros, Zaidi has gained perspective as to how some of the more successful, forward-thinking organizations make decisions in the dugout.

Many other teams such as the Cubs and Angels didn’t appear to be as deliberate with their searches, settling on candidates who were immediately considered the favorites to land their respective jobs entering the offseason. That’s fine if the hire works out, but it’s unclear why more organizations aren’t attempting to do their due diligence and learn more from some of the many bright, up-and-coming minds that work in their opponents’ dugouts.

Additionally, Zaidi told reporters he also expected to hire a general manager this offseason. No information has been leaked about that process and where the team currently stands, but if the Giants have conducted concurrent searches, it’s natural that it would take longer to handle all of the interviews required.

How did the Giants settle on these three finalists?

The organization has attempted to keep the details of the search under wraps and it’s largely unclear how the candidate pool was whittled down.

We know the Giants talked to a pair of internal candidates, bench coach Hensley Meulens and third base coach Ron Wotus, but neither advanced to the second round of interviews. On the surface, it would seem both Meulens and Wotus are more qualified than both Espada and Grifol and likely as knowledgeable as Kapler, but the search has led the Giants to have discussions with many coaches with less experience working in major league dugouts.

With the Giants turning their attention to Kapler, Espada and Grifol, it appears the Giants are determined to hire a manager who is well-versed in analytics and someone who is comfortable with the front office being more involved in the day-to-day decision-making processes that take place during the season.

Of the nine candidates who reportedly interviewed, only Kapler and current Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren possess previous experience managing a MLB team. That suggests the Giants de-valued prior experience and instead prioritized people who would be equally at ease relating to both front office personnel and players.

What are the pros and cons of a long search?

This one is relatively simple. The primary argument for taking more than a month to hire a manager is to ensure you’ve throughly vetted candidates and that you’re making the right hire.

Managers’ roles have been increasingly devalued in recent years, but it remains one of the most important positions for a franchise. Selecting a manager who struggles to relate to players or one who lacks the ability to handle adversity can have significant negative effects on a team. Selecting a manager who understands the needs of players, successfully utilizes analytics and balances a team’s short-term needs with a long-term view can help a roster become greater than the sum of its parts.

The biggest concern about a process that drags on is that those in charge of making the hire are overthinking the choice and will ultimately fail to settle on the right candidate. If the Giants replace Bochy with an inexperienced candidate who loses the clubhouse in their first season on the job, it won’t inspire much confidence in the front office’s ability to make important decisions.

Is there a favorite at this point in the process?

It’s still unclear who the Giants plan to hire, but the longer the process takes, the more it appears that Zaidi is leaning toward choosing Kapler.

Kapler was considered a favorite to land the Dodgers job in November 2015 when Zaidi and executive Andrew Friedman chose Dave Roberts to lead Los Angeles. After two mediocre seasons that led to his firing in Philadelphia, Kapler is now a finalist in San Francisco despite questions surrounding his candidacy.

During his tenure as the Phillies manager, Kapler came under fire for his reported mishandling of assault allegations that took place while he was the Dodgers director of player development. Kapler responded to the allegations on his own personal blog, providing a detailed account of his perspective of the situation.

Many Giants fans have expressed unease on social media with the idea of the franchise hiring Kapler and there have undoubtedly been several internal discussions regarding Kapler’s role in handling the allegations and whether it’s feasible to hire him.

It’s possible the Giants have already made a determination on whether they’re comfortable introducing Kapler as their next manager and are simply still deciding on who the best fit is, strictly from a baseball perspective. The Giants didn’t conduct their second-round interview with Espada until Friday and the organization is likely still evaluating what the Astros bench coach brings to the table.

Regardless of which candidate the Giants select, a certain portion of the fan base will embrace the hire, a certain portion will remain skeptical for an extended period of time and a certain portion will voice its displeasure. That’s the nature of high-profile decisions that are instantly judged by a fan base, even if it takes multiple years to properly evaluate how the Giants went about their process and whether they made the best possible selection.

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