On our last The House That Steroids Built entry, we looked at current San Francisco Giants Manager Gabe Kapler and his playing career—where he interesting played with known PED users in Texas, Boston, and Milwaukee. Today, we will look at his managerial career, with some undistinguished seasons in Philadelphia followed by some highly improbable success with the Cheaters by the Bay.
We know what Kapler was exposed to as a player: a lot of PED use around him, and for a guy like him, with mediocre talent in comparison to his All-Star teammates, it must have been an interesting experience in which he also may have dabbled. Now, how has that translated to his time as an MLB manager? Let’s do a season-by-season breakdown.
2018 Philadelphia Phillies: 80-82
Kapler’s first team did not reach .500, despite having the same level of talent on it as the 2021 Giants, really. Starting pitcher Aaron Nola was a Cy Young candidate, and the offense had plenty of sluggers in the lineup: four players hit between 22 and 34 home runs. However, the team was still outscored by 51 runs on the season, so Kapler actually coaxed 4 extra wins out of the roster to achieve 80 victories.
Yet he couldn’t do much with aging starter Jake Arrieta, our NL Cy winner in 2015 (and a suspected PED user, although we couldn’t find any truly good evidence of it). Also, Kapler couldn’t coax much out of former first-round pick Zach Eflin on the mound, either. Oh, and Nick Pivetta, who is blossoming this season for the Boston Red Sox? Kapler also couldn’t manage him to a decent season. Interesting.
That’s the potential of a sterling rotation right there: Nola, Arrieta, Eflin, and Pivetta. But Kapler didn’t even reach .500 with those guys, even though by 2021, he took worse pitchers and made them into something “special” … with a different organization. The Phillies really have no history of PED use, so it’s interesting to note this talent that Kapler was unable to do shit with during the 2018 season.
2019 Philadelphia Phillies: 81-81
Remember when we suggested outfielder Bryce Harper blew it by signing with Philly instead of Los Angeles? This was the year the Philadelphia organization brought in major talent: Harper, catcher J.T. Realmuto, outfielder Andrew McCutcheon, and shortstop Jean Segura. Except for McCutcheon, they’d all been All-Star players in 2018; Kapler still couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag to a winning mark.
He also still had a rotation with Nola, Eflin, Arrieta, and Pivetta, in addition to a full season out of regular closer Héctor Neris. There was a serious amount of talent on this roster, and Kapler did not get the team to the postseason, let alone above .500 for the season. Yes, McCutcheon got hurt, but he was the least of the new acquisitions to begin with, and the rotation still should have been strong.
The Phillies let Kapler go after spending a shit ton of money on free agents and coming up short of the postseason, which begs the question as to why the Giants would have ever been interested in Kapler when he demonstrated a complete inability to manage real talent at the MLB level. Admittedly, despite bering outscored by 20 runs, Kapler exceeded Pythagorean projections again, but … come on.
2020 San Francisco Giants: 29-31
This was the Covid-shortened season, so it’s hard to know what was what here, but we already examined the fishy stuff in the City by the Bay for this season. This team was so bereft of talent, it’s amazing the Giants got to the precipice of the expanded playoffs. Interestingly, S.F. outscored its opponents by 2 runs, so Kapler actually fell short of projections by a win.
And seriously, this roster was a joke. But somehow, with 8 games remaining in the season, all at home, the Giants were 26-26 and right in the middle of the postseason mix. But they lost the last three games of the year to fall out of a playoff spot, and that is probably the true managerial talent level of Kapler right there, in a nutshell. He just didn’t have what it took as a MLB manager to win, after three years to prove it.
2021 San Francisco Giants: 107-55
Right away, that number is laughable. The 107 were the most in franchise history, and the .660 winning percentage was the best in S.F. franchise history. And the roster was still mostly a joke, even with the overrated Buster Posey back in the fold. But the roster, as we showed repeatedly last summer/fall, was full of castoffs and retreads. So, where did Kapler suddenly learn how to manage?
Good question. It’s clear he decided to fall back on his playing experience to turn the team around, as one more losing/non-winning season as a manager would pretty much mean the end of the road for him in the dugout. He couldn’t win with All-Star players in Philadelphia, but he could win with a bunch of over-the-hill players in San Francisco. Sure. We’ve already shredded this season elsewhere.
Somehow a manager who never had had a winning season before found ways to be better than Bruce Bochy ever could in The House That Steroids Built? But we thought Bochy was the best—yet all he could ever do was win 94 games in a season. And If Bochy was the best ever, then how could Kapler top him? Evidently, the local media would have simpletons believe that somehow the Giants just “find” these guys.
Conclusion: Experienced enablers are encouraged in S.F.
We know Bochy was a PED enabler, dating back to his days in San Diego with Ken Caminiti. We know Kapler rubbed shoulders with known PED users in Texas, Boston, and Milwaukee during his playing career. We know Kapler was desperate to win as a manager after his utter failure in Philadelphia with a roster full of All-Star players. We know the Giants like managers who are fine with cheating.
Do the math: That is what the S.F. organization saw in Kapler after Philly fired him … desperation, experience with PEDs, and an eagerness to do whatever it takes to win (and profit). Toss in some washed-up players with the same desperation on the field in The House That Steroids Built, and you have the modern-day San Francisco Giants.