Gabe Kapler's Giants contract extension shows how far team has come

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Kapler's contract extension shows how far Giants have come originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The announcement on Friday afternoon that the Giants have tacked two years onto Gabe Kapler's contract came two years to the day after the announcement that he would be their manager. 

The timing was a coincidence, and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said there is nothing symbolic about Nov. 12. But it certainly is notable how much has changed in those two years, not just for the Giants, but for Kapler himself. 

A day after that initial announcement in 2019, Kapler sat behind a podium with Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris for a press conference that was uncomfortable for all three. They had to sell Kapler to a fan base that was skeptical, and they knew it would take a while. What stood out on Friday was the fact that it actually didn't take all that long. 

Kapler's extension, which takes him through the 2024 MLB season, was a formality after a 107-win season, and he has proven to be the right choice on and off the field. In a press release to announce the news, Zaidi credited Kapler for his managerial work but also for his engagement with the community. An hour later, Harris talked about his in-game work, which was in question after Kapler was fired by the Philadelphia Phillies after two seasons. 

"I think he brings a competitive advantage to our dugout every time he steps out there," Harris said. 

That has been proven through a .613 winning percentage in two seasons and a stunning NL West title. Zaidi and Harris saw enough in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season to know they made the right decision with Kapler, but the 2021 run won over a fan base. Extending this partnership was the easiest decision Zaidi and Harris will make this offseason. 

"Any time you have a season like we did, winning 100-plus games and getting to the playoffs and building a lot of positive momentum, and your manager is going into the last year of his deal, it's really a high priority to get that taken care of," Zaidi said. "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 and we're thrilled we were able to get it done in such short order."

Zaidi said the conversations were easy and all sides were comfortable with the length. A three-year deal is the usual contract for new managers, and this extension essentially puts Kapler at the start of a new three-year run. Zaidi, who is signed through 2023, added that none of the Giants' decision-makers "are planning on going anywhere."

The news came at a time when Kapler is not only helping out with free agency, but also is deep into work preparing for the 2022 season. He finalized his coaching staff this week and said he would backfill the positions that were opened up by two promotions. Asked what makes him most proud from his first two seasons in San Francisco, Kapler pointed to that large coaching staff. 

"I'm proud that we have, if not the most diverse staff in baseball, we're right there with any other club," Kapler said. "I continue to think that that diversity will lead to better decision making and I believe we saw some fruit of that, we saw the fruits of our labor in that way in 2021. I don't think it's a coincidence that we built the relationships that we built with our players and what we were able to accomplish collectively. I think that has a lot to do with every player in our clubhouse having someone on our staff to relate to. That's something that I'm particularly proud of."

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That's a vision Kapler brought with him to San Francisco and part of the reason he was such an easy fit with Zaidi and Harris. It might have been a rocky start publicly, but two years later it's smooth sailing. The next time Kapler speaks to the media, he'll be accepting his National League Manager of the Year Award. 

"I think the thing that has surprised me about (the last two years) is the speed with which he changed opinions," Harris said. "Two years ago we were sitting at the press conference and ever since that day the organization has gotten better both on and off the field. I think that's a tribute to Kap and all the hard work that he brought to the job over the last two years."

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