By Jim Williams
Special to S.F. Examiner
Even with both the 49ers and the Raiders having better-than-expected seasons, the talk of Bay Area sports radio over the last week and a half has been the hiring of Gabe Kapler as the new manager of the San Francisco Giants. Between a mediocre two seasons in Philadelphia and revelations about how he handled his minor leaguers being accused of assault while farm director for the Dodgers, reviews haven’t been so good.
I reached out to Karl Ravech, the host of “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN, to try to get some clarity on the hire. Since 1995, Ravech has been the primary host of ESPN’s signature baseball show and his insight on what’s going on in the game is always noteworthy.
Williams: What are your thoughts on the Giants hiring of Gabe Kapler?
Ravech: If you look at all the recent managers hired like Aaron Boone, Alex Cora and Dave Martinez — to name a few — they, in their own unique way, fit a new template. They are great communicators, people who can connect with the players while at the same time carrying out the mission set forth from the front office. Also they embrace and work closely with advanced metrics and analytics staff using the information they provide in creating a winning game plan for their teams.
I believe that, clearly, the Giants thought that Kapler embraced all of those duties, plus his big league experience as the Phillies manager, gave him the tools needed to be the best man to lead the team in the post Bruce Bochy era.
Williams: How big of an advantage did Kapler’s relationship with Farhan Zaidi when both were with the Dodgers play into this decision?
Ravech: Look, Farhan Zaidi knows Kapler as well or better than just about anyone in baseball. This hire is on Farhan and he will be judged by the success of Kapler, so he really must have a great deal of faith in him or he would not have hired him.
Williams: Kapler will have to execute the vision of the front office while dealing with established stars. How is that going to work?
Ravech:Giants fans are among some of the best and most sophisticated fans in baseball. They know that this team is not going to win a World Series championship every other year as they have for the past decade. The fans know that this current roster, which — no knock on the players they have — simply is not competitive with the Dodgers, so this is going to require a bit of patience, because the Giants are going to have go young to get better. Plus they have established players that could bring them plenty of good prospects through trades.
So, yes, this is rebuilding, but not a total gut job.
Williams: How quickly can the Giants become competitive?
Ravech: We have seen throughout Major League Baseball that it does not have to take four or five years to rebuild a team if you have the resources.
Giants fans saw the future of baseball across the Bay in Oakland when the A’s played the Rays in the AL Wild Card Game back in October.
Those two teams are built to be competitive for years by making smart moves in the draft, creating your own stars the old-fashioned way, playing good fundamental baseball, not giving out long term contracts, adding free agents to complement the core group of players and by making smart trades.
So, the word for the future in San Francisco has to be “creativity,” and you might want to add “patience” to the mix, as well. I think with the combination of creativity and patience, we will see just how quickly the Giants return to being a force in a division where the Dodgers are going to be good for a long time.
One last note on rebuilding, and that is that San Francisco is a very attractive destination for free agents. A big part of Kapler’s job will be helping to recruit the right players to fit the new Giants plans. That will be critical to speeding up the rebuilding process.
Williams: What do you see the Giants doing to jump start that rebuilding process at the Winter Meetings in December?
Ravech: I look for them to be creative, so they might be looking to move Brandon Crawford for high-quality prospects. That is one of a few trades they could make. As for free agents, I really think they will be very selective about anyone they add, and it likely won’t be a big name.
Be sure sure to checkout Ravech and his partners from “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN from the Winter Meeting in San Diego, December 8-12, and throughout the offseason.
Channel Surfing: This might be one of the biggest days of NFL football for the two Bay Area teams in a very long time.
On KPIX 5 at 10 a.m., the Oakland Raiders — hunting for an AFC West title, and, failing that, a playoff spot — will be in New York to face the Jets. CBS will have the team of Greg Gumbel and Trent Green on hand at the Meadowlands for the broadcast, and KPIX has the postgame covered.
The 49ers and Packers square off on NBC at 5 p.m. in a battle of NFC frontrunners on Sunday Night Football. This will be one of the biggest national telecasts for the 49ers in recent memory, and worthy of having Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, along with sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, on hand to call all the action. NBC Sports Bay Area will be live from Levi’s Stadium with 49ers Pregame Live at 4 p.m. and Postgame Live right after the game ends.
Warriors broadcasts on NBC Sports Bay Area this week start on Monday night with a home game against Oklahoma City at 7:30 p.m. On Wednesday, the Bulls roll into town for another 7:30 p.m. tip and then Golden State flies across the country for a Friday-night date in Miami against the Heat at 5 p.m.