SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler was one of the people Farhan Zaidi spoke to the most when he left the A's to become the general manager of the Dodgers. Perhaps at that time Zaidi thought he would soon hand Kapler a jersey, hat and the manager job. On Wednesday, nearly four years after the first time Zaidi introduced a new manager to the media, he finally got to do it with Kapler.
Kapler was thought to be the favorite when the Dodgers started looking for Don Mattingly's replacement, but Dave Roberts ended up getting the job and since has earned an extension. Kapler, then the Dodgers' director of player development, finished as the runner-up.
"In all candor, I think one of the questions we had was who was going to be the best leader at the time for that clubhouse," Zaidi said Wednesday. "On the one hand I think Doc (Roberts) has proven himself to be a very worthy choice and the right choice, but I think in that process we might have underestimated Gabe's leadership abilities in the clubhouse, and that's one reason we really dug into his experience in Philadelphia and sought to get references and talk to players and staff there."
The Giants dug deep, talking to Phillies players and members of the front office that let Kapler go in early October. One team official said Wednesday that a high-ranking Phillies executive told the Giants that 29 other teams would be lucky to have Kapler, but that the situation in Philadelphia had just run its course.
"I have to say I was a little overwhelmed by the unsolicited texts and phone calls I got from players and staff in Philly supporting his candidacy here and talking about how well-respected and liked he was in the Philadelphia clubhouse," Zaidi said. "Obviously the team didn't live up to expectations and they felt they needed to make a change, but I think he's a much better candidate to lead a team and be a Major League manager now than he was when we evaluated him in Los Angeles and even when he began his managerial tenure in Philadelphia.
"That's kind of been a theme of ours through this process, is having a growth mindset and getting better at the job, and I think he's done that and will continue to do it."
There was other due diligence to be done, of course. The Giants initially planned to talk to two internal candidates -- Ron Wotus and Hensley Meulens -- and 8-10 overall. By the end of October, they were down to Kapler, Houston's Joe Espada, Kansas City's Pedro Grifol and Tampa Bay's Matt Quatraro. By Monday, people throughout the organization felt it was Kapler vs. Espada, with Zaidi truly conflicted on which way to go. The conversations and interviews continued into the evening on Monday.
Zaidi ultimately chose Kapler, setting up a situation where two men who could have been running the Dodgers four years ago now will try and loosen their stranglehold on the NL West, with Kapler going up against a former teammate. Kapler and Roberts played together in 1998 on the Jacksonville Suns, the Double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Kapler drove in 146 runs that season and Roberts scored 71 in just 69 games.
"He was on base so often for me, he hit at the top of the lineup and I hit a couple of batters later," Kapler said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "But then we stayed in touch over the years. I was kind of wrestling with the disappointment of not getting the position as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and my happiness and my feeling good for Dave Roberts.
"It is something that I can play around with (Zaidi) and kind of bust his chops on. But I know that those decisions are made collaboratively and I don't hold any one person responsible or accountable for them."