The hard part was winning 107 games and an NL West title. The easy part was bringing back the man who orchestrated one of the most memorable seasons in Giants history.
The Giants announced Friday they had extended the contract of Gabe Kapler through the 2024 season, which is pretty much standard procedure for a successful manager heading into the final year of his original three-year contract.
“I feel like I’ve really enjoyed getting to know our fan base and feel like San Francisco is home now,” Kapler said during a video conference that also included president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris. “This feels like an endorsement of what I already felt — which is that I belong here.”
Terms were not disclosed other than the length of the extension, but Zaidi said the process was a smooth one.
“I know there’s been a lot of conversation about what we have to do roster-wise, but this was really at the top of our list,” Zaidi said. “I’m thrilled we were able to get it done in such short order.”
The extension comes two years to the day when the Giants announced Kapler would be the manager to replace the popular Bruce Bochy, who delivered three World Series championships. It wasn’t a popular hire. Kapler was fired by the Philadelphia Phillies after a two-year run as manager, going 80-82 and 80-81.
The following day, Kapler was grilled by the local media in an unusual introductory press conference for his handling of sexual assault allegations while he worked for the Los Angeles Dodgers as director of player development in 2015.
“I think the thing that’s surprised me about it is the speed with which he changed opinions throughout the last two years,” Harris said. “Two years ago we were sitting at the press conference and ever since that day the organization got better both on and off the field and I think that’s a tribute to Kap and all the hard work he brought to the job.”
Kapler, who has stressed communication and a selfless approach since Day 1, was grateful for getting the chance.
“I feel like I was given an opportunity to show our organization and people in the city and the bay that I could do a really good job in this role,” Kapler said. “I don’t take that opportunity lightly. I think we’re always earning our opportunities. That’s always going to be fluid, a work in progress. I take the responsibility of leading this club from the dugout very seriously but I also take every opportunity as something that I can take advantage of and help this organization because I’m working so hard to achieve the goals we all share in common.”
Kapler, 46, has guided the Giants to a 136-86 record in two seasons. They held off the Dodgers to win the West and return to the playoffs this season, falling to LA in the NLDS, after just missing the playoffs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The Giants had not reached the playoffs since 2016 before this season’s breakthrough, the winningest season since the franchise moved to San Francisco.
Part of Kapler’s success has come from hiring one of the largest and most diverse coaching staffs in baseball. Veterans who had played and won with Bochy such as Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey all quickly bought in.
This offseason, Kapler hired Phillies assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero to replace Donnie Eckert, who left to become hitting coach of the Texas Rangers, and named assistant coach Mark Hallberg to become third base coach in place of Ron Wotus, who retired.
Also getting a promotion was Taira Uematsu, a bullpen catcher for the past 14 seasons. He will assume Hallberg’s role.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence we built the relationships with our players and what we were able to accomplish collectively,” Kapler said. “I think that had a lot to do with every player in our clubhouse having somebody on our satff to relate to, so that’s something I’m particularly proud of.”
Kapler is one of three finalists for the National League Manager of the Year award, which will be announced next week, along with Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell and Mike Shildt of the St. Louis Cardinals. Shildt was fired following the season.
It would be a major surprise if Kapler doesn’t win.
“I think he brings a competitive advantage to our dugout every time he steps out there and I think he’s a huge reason why we won 107 games this year,” Harris said. “I think he deserves to be manager of the year as a result of all those achievements.”