Barber: Farhan Zaidi's reputation at stake as Giants hire Gabe Kapler
SAN FRANCISCO — Farhan Zaidi’s San Francisco honeymoon ended Tuesday evening, when the Giants announced that Gabe Kapler would be the team’s new manager.
That was the moment Zaidi returned home from the beach, dumped the sand out of his shoes, unpacked the dirty clothes from his suitcase and looked around to find a stack of unpaid bills, an empty refrigerator and mold on the shower curtain. Welcome home, Farhan!
The new reality was more than apparent during Wednesday’s media session at Oracle Park. It was a strange spectacle. Most introductory press conferences are celebrations. This one was more like an extended apology.
“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,” said Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations. “But really about supporting. And I don’t think we did enough in that regard. And I’ve had to reflect on that, and I’m truly sorry.”
“I think if I could go back and do some of the Dodgers stuff different, I probably would have called my mom and asked her about which steps to take,” said Kapler, who replaces the eminently respected Bruce Bochy in the dugout. “… I think this is the right time to say I’m sorry that I didn’t make all the right moves.”
The “incidents” and “moves” in question are what made Wednesday more of a referendum that an ice breaker. Kapler’s handling of an assault — possibly a sexual assault by a player — during Dodgers spring training in 2015, when he was that organization’s director of player development, was at the very least insufficient, and by some accounts dirty.
There are multiple layers to that story, and some debatable gaps. I will not recount it in detail here because those issues all were sitting on the table the moment Kapler walked into the Giants’ door, and I have nothing new to add. Suffice to say Kapler’s past makes him the least popular coaching/managerial hire in the Bay Area in, well, possibly forever.
There was skepticism when the 49ers elevated Jim Tomsula in 2015, hired Chip Kelly the following year and (admit it!) brought in college coach Bill Walsh in 1979, and when Tom Cable got to keep his interim job with the Raiders in 2009. Steve Kerr had a lot of doubters when he replaced the semi-popular Mark Jackson in 2014. None of them experienced the sort of outrage and enmity that has greeted Kapler.
My colleague C.W. Nevius, who has covered Bay Area sports longer than I, tells me Jim Davenport immediately led with the wrong foot when the Giants hired him as manager in 1985. I imagine a certain segment of the population revolted when the A’s hired the deeply troubled Billy Martin in 1980. I don’t know that either of them faced a negative consensus to match Kapler’s.
It isn’t just his ham-fisted treatment of that hotel-room incident in 2015, or the other systemic problems in a Dodgers farm system that included both Kapler and Zaidi. The manager’s on-field performance in Philadelphia left much to be desired, too. They did fire him after two years.
Granted, the Phillies were considerably worse before Kapler got there in 2017. He lifted them to mediocrity, going 161-163 over two full seasons. But Kapler’s managing moves, especially his bullpen usage, was so perplexing early on that his players threatened a mutiny. And even when he put that behind him, he failed to produce a winning record despite the team signing free agents like Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutcheon and the pearl of the Class of ’19, Bryce Harper.