Kapler validating MOY honors

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler looks for some skin after Luis Gonzalez slugged a go ahead home run in the top of the ninth against the Milwaukee Brewers on Mon Apr 25, 2022 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Kapler was the National League Manager of the Year for 2021 (AP News file photo)

By Jeremy Harness

SAN FRANCISCO – You see it all the time in sports. Star players of successful teams either get traded or simply walk away as free agents, and those teams often experience a drop-off. It’s a major factor of the ebbs and flows of a pro sports franchise, and it all just comes with the territory.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Over the course of the past 20 years, head coach Bill Belichick has guided the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl wins and only missed the playoffs three times in that span, despite losing key players along the way.

Belichick and his staff implemented what is called “The Patriot Way,” a culture that has pointed the way for a countless number of unheralded players to rise to the occasion and fill key roles that had previously been vacated.

It may be too early to tell, but thus far, Giants manager Gabe Kapler appears to have his squad on a similar path.

There was plenty of speculation when Kapler took over for the retired Bruce Bochy in 2020, especially considering his firing as the Phillies’ skipper the year before and that he was stepping in for a legend who had guided the Giants to three World Series titles.

After just missing the playoffs in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Giants won a franchise-record 107 games in 2021 with a roster mostly made of relative unknowns – with the exception of mid-season trade acquisition Kris Bryant, shortstop Brandon Crawford and the recently-retired Buster Posey – and came within a game of reaching the NLCS before falling to the hated Los Angeles Dodgers.

As a result of that run, Kapler was named the National League’s Manager of the Year, both by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as well as the Sporting News. The Giants also rewarded him with a two-year extension through the 2024 season.

The Giants have since parted ways with Bryant as well as emerging stars such as starter Kevin Gausman and infielder Donovan Solano, all of whom left the club via free agency. Kapler, however, has made sure the train never left the tracks, as the Giants entered Friday’s game with a 13-6 mark, which is second-best in the majors.

Just as the case with the Patriots, relatively-unknown commodities have stepped up and made an impact in this young season.

Right fielder Luis Gonzalez, who was waived by the Chicago White Sox last August and has been on the Giants’ major-league roster for exactly a week, entered Friday night with a .316 average with five RBI, including his first big-league homer on Monday, a go-ahead two-run shot in the team’s win at Milwaukee.

Another example is third baseman Jason Vosler, who is hitting .211 this season after finishing 2021 with a .178 average in 41 games with the Giants, who stepped up in the second inning and blasted a two-run homer off Washington starter Aaron Sanchez to cut the Nationals’ lead to 3-2.

However, the next couple of weeks will certainly test the Giants’ mettle, as it was learned hours before Friday’s game that five Giants players had tested positive for COVID-19. At press time, which players had tested positive was not disclosed, nor how long they are expected to be out of the lineup.

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