As we head into the home stretch of the 2021 season, it’s obvious the San Francisco Giants have been a huge surprise this year, and the New York Yankees have been a huge disappointment.
The Giants will win over 100 games by the end of the season and make the NL playoffs. The Yankees, on the other hand, have a huge hill to climb to even squeeze into October as a Wild Card team. These results are basically the reverse of what many baseball analysts expected for each team.
While Gabe Kapler is the choice of runaway to be selected as Manager of the year of the NL, there is a reasonable probability that Aaron Boone will not be offered a contract renewal for next year due to his team’s underperformance in 2021 despite a large payroll and talented players.
There are several reasons why the Giants have exceeded expectations and why the Bronx Bombers have significantly underperformed preseason forecasts. A significant difference between the two teams is the style, tactics and varying approaches of the two managers.
This begs the question of what specifically Kapler did right and why Boone did wrong. It is important to note that such a comparison can inform the Yankees organization about the type of manager that works best, given the nature of baseball players today. This information, in turn, can help guide the team in selecting a manager who performs better than Boone the next time around.
Yankees: What is central to the success of Giants manager Gabe Kapler?
The Giants and manager Bruce Bochy, who has won three World Series in five years, have agreed to go their separate ways after three consecutive losing seasons. Farhan Zaidi, the team’s president of baseball operations, has chosen Kapler to replace Bochy as manager ahead of the 2020 season.
Kapler was the Los Angeles Dodgers farm manager when Zaidi was the Dodgers general manager. Zaidi knew Kapler well and thought he was the best man for the job.
Kapler was a controversial choice. He had a tough time with the Philadelphia Phillies. Additionally, he was the manager of the LA farm when allegations of sexual assault were made against a Dodgers player, whom Kapler later admitted was mismanaged.
Kapler has played for several different MLB teams and managers, and he had quite the run. The list of skippers he has played with includes Terry Francona (Boston Red Sox), Johnny Oates (Texas Rangers) and Joe Maddon (Tampa Bay Rays).
Here is what a MLB executive had to say about Kapler:
“Gabe has done an incredible job that fits the vision for the Giants’ organization. It is my belief that the good ones learn from experiences with their previous organizations. Joe Torre, Bobby Cox – they’ve always done well with their second and third chances if they’re good self-assessors.
A good idea, eh? So what can the Yankees learn from Kapler’s current stint with the Giants? We’ll take a look:
Lesson 1: Replace Boone with someone who has managerial experience in MLB and doesn’t feel like they have a monopoly on good ideas
Kapler says the difference for him now compared to his time in Philadelphia was that he was adamant when leading the Phillies. However, he has learned to consider a variety of different ideas and is doing so now. He is much more open to comments than before, which has allowed him to become a better listener and to be more open-minded.
One of Kapler’s strengths is that he isn’t stubbornly rooted in an approach and can make adjustments throughout the season. For example, when he started managing the Giants in 2020, there was criticism of how the team was using starting pitchers. Kapler analyzed different opinions and perspectives, addressed them, and then made adjustments as the season progressed.
Giants general manager Scott Harris believes this is one of the reasons the club’s rotation has performed exceptionally well this year.
Another adjustment Kapler makes is to share game time information with their players. After listening to their ideas, he changed the way he communicated with them. Players now feel confident and empowered, and Harris believes that’s another reason the Giants have won so many games.
Lesson 2: Next time, hire someone who is open with differing internal and external opinions and who can communicate effectively and candidly
The Giants have the largest coaching staff in baseball with 14 members. Most MLB teams have 9 or 10. Kapler is not a dictator, and he has no difficulty delegating his authority to his coaches. As a result, it can be assumed that hitters and pitchers tout the individualized plans and the attention they receive.
While Giants executives have done an impressive job of mingling various new players (e.g. Kris Bryant and Mike Yastrzemski) with veterans (e.g. Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and Evan Longoria), Kapler has worked from seamlessly with the forehead. office to determine how these guys would be treated and what roles they would play.
Additionally, Kapler, who is 45, is young enough to get along well with Giants players. He can talk about topics ranging from expensive shoes with other sneaker fanatics on the team to various types of music, from rock to rap and beyond. If you want a players manager, do all the research necessary to determine the non-baseball traits required to be successful on the job.
Lesson 3: The next manager must have the ability to act on human instincts while working alongside analytics
In addition to using analytics, Kapler seems to prioritize the emotional and mental health of his players and how this affects their confidence level on the pitch.
We’ve seen far too many instances with Boone where he abuses players, doesn’t discipline players, or calls the wrong guy in a specific situation. If he’s had a 50% success rate in that department, the Yankees probably have seven or more wins, which changes the whole complexion of their season.
The Giants are very analytical, but the organization probably understands how important it is for a manager to act autonomously and instinctively when necessary. It’s not just about spreadsheets and equations.
Of course, there are other variables to consider when selecting the next Yankees manager, such as New York fan and media relations. From a fundamental point of view, Kapler provides a good model on how a manager should behave and operate today, and the Yanks can use it as a guide to pick their next manager.