Gabe Kapler was considered the favorite to get the Dodgers' manager job before Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi settled on Dave Roberts in November 2015. Four years later, Zaidi is giving Kapler another shot to prove he's a big league manager.
The Giants have chosen Kapler as their replacement for Bruce Bochy, further shifting the organization towards analytics and modern methods. Kapler, fired by the Phillies last month, has long been considered an innovator as a coach, but he also has been a lightning rod at points.
The 44-year-old played a dozen years in the big leagues, most of them in the American League, before transitioning to coaching and front office work. Kapler served as Director of Player Development for the Dodgers from 2014 to 2017 and drew positive reviews for his ability to communicate with players and get them to buy in to new methods.
A cover model for bodybuilding magazines during his playing career, Kapler was part of a push to take junk food out of minor league clubhouses and teach Dodgers minor leaguers how to live a healthier lifestyle. Kapler at one point had a blog that gave health advice.
As a manager, the jury is still out. Kapler got off to a good start in Philadelphia but the Phillies went into the tank down the stretch, finishing 80-82 in his first season. This past season, the Phillies finished 81-81 and in fourth place in the NL East despite a heavy push in free agency that included the signing of Bryce Harper. They were decimated by injuries and Kapler was fired after ownership undertook a lengthy evaluation process in early October.
"I want to thank Kap for his tireless commitment to the Phillies over the last two years," Phillies GM Matt Klentak said at the time. "When we hired Kap, it was our goal to develop a positive, forward-thinking and collaborative culture throughout the organization that would allow us to compete with the best teams in the league year in and year out.
"While we have fallen short in the win column for the last two years, I can confidently say that Kap's efforts have established a strong and sustainable foundation for this organization moving forward."
Those who know him say Kapler is a constant source of energy, a strong motivator, and someone who focuses on preparation and attention to detail. Time will tell how that plays in a Giants clubhouse full of veterans, but Zaidi has spent enough time with Kapler over the years to know his strengths and weaknesses. He hinted at a Kapler reunion at the end of the season, saying previous experience would be a boost to any candidacy. Kapler had more of it than most of the other candidates.
"What we've seen with managers is that there's a learning curve," Zaidi said. "A lot of times guys do better and have more traction their second time around because of the lessons that they've learned."