July 23, 2024
When Giants ownership fired manager Gabe Kapler, a decision on the future of director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi should have followed.

SAN FRANCISCO — This is not an appropriate way to run a baseball team.

Not in this day and age.

Not in this kind of market.

With one decision, the Giants have set themselves up for years of unnecessary messiness and continued mediocrity.

When Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi recommended to the team’s governing board that they fire manager Gabe Kapler last week, it should have sparked a larger conversation about the organization’s future.

That was the time to decide if Zaidi is the right person to lead this team.

Both Zaidi and Kapler’s contracts with the Giants expire after the 2024 season, but someone’s head had to roll after a sub-.500 season.

So Zaidi deftly sacrificed Kapler to save himself.

I don’t blame Zaidi for making the move. It was justifiable — Kapler was floundering in his role.

But the fact that Zaidi could save himself is the problem.

Zaidi and Kapler worked in lock-step. The former hand-picked the latter. The latter implemented the former’s vision on a minute-by-minute basis. That’s how teams — good and bad — operate in this era, and it won’t change: The director of baseball operations calls the shots, and managers sell it to the team and fans.

Surely, Giants’ ownership knows that. They must.

Yet they’re leaving Zaidi in contract limbo — a fact he said Tuesday he doesn’t expect to change. As such, the new Giants’ manager will work on a different timeline than the man who hires them.

And make no mistake, Zaidi is making this manager hire.

That’s a recipe for dysfunction. That’s the start of a mess that takes multiple years to clean up.

At some point, someone will take this open manager’s job. But unless the Giants have a hush-hush extension (itself, a 100-foot-wide red flag) with Zaidi, who would want to be the next manager of this team?

Surely, no one with solid options or serious tenure.

Under the current public understanding, Zaidi is entering a make-or-break season.

Another .500, non-playoff team in 2024, and he will be looking for a new gig.

And the manager he just hired will either be exiting with him — one-and-done — or looking like a lame duck himself this time next season. Neither is a good look for the Giants.

Zaidi said Tuesday that there has been plenty of interest in the open manager job, pushing the narrative that the Giants are a great, storied organization that can attract candidates.

But that’s all surface-level interest. Once this process truly pushes forward and real details of the job need to be discussed, the incongruity Giants ownership has shown with Zaidi will come to the forefront. Smart candidates will pass on this gig.

I like Zaidi and don’t know if there is a better option to lead the Giants’ baseball operations department.  He has made progress for this organization, particularly regarding the farm system.

But Zaidi has failed, famously, as a free agent recruiter. Maybe the game is rigged against him being in charge of the Giants, but the organization has swung and missed with big-name players on the open market in recent off-seasons.

Zaidi said Tuesday, amid 40 minutes of questions and answers in the Giants’ dugout, that any manager the team hires must be a good recruiter of free agents.

“We want to have an emphasis on continuity — players that are going to be here for a long time,” the man who can’t say for sure if he’ll still be in his job this time next year said.

From this point onwards, the chain reaction of not re-signing or firing Zaidi will be felt in everything the Giants do. Indecision at the top doesn’t breed positive outcomes down the line.

A fourth-choice manager isn’t going to attract marquee free agents, and what player would want to sign up long-term for an organization that appears destined for serious changes in the coming years?

So the Giants will likely go into 2024 with the same kind of uninteresting hodgepodge of platoon-player veterans and youngsters too green to make a serious impact they played this past season.

You know, the exact kind of players Zaidi said Tuesday make it hard to win games.

“We[‘re] looking to get more athletic, get younger,” Zaidi said, before adding:

“It’s tough to make the transition from even Triple-A to the big leagues. I think you’re going to see ups and downs with rookies.”

The irony of it all is palpable.

The mismanagement is wildly apparent.

This whole thing has been botched to high heaven for no good reason.

Because so long as Zaidi — the most important baseball person in the organization — remains in limbo, the Giants will be there, too.

And that’s an unacceptable outcome.

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