On October 14 I got a direct message on Twitter.
It was earlier this fall and the Cubs were interviewing multiple candidates for their managerial opening. They eventually reached an agreement with the man everyone agreed was the favorite from the outset: David Ross. But before that agreement, one of those candidates was former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler. My reaction to that interview was the same as many on Bleed Cubbie Blue — underwhelmed and unenthusiastic with a hint of confusion. Kapler hadn’t exactly been impressive in Philadelphia and he had a lot of baggage. Surely between Joe Girardi, Joe Espada, Ross and others he wasn’t going to be impressive in this field of candidates. I read some takes on Twitter that Kapler’s interview was more about mining for information and less about actually considering him for the job and tried put it out of my mind.
Then I was contacted by his former co-worker Nick Francona on Twitter. Francona was concerned that there hadn’t been a proper evaluation of Kapler’s role in how he “covered up multiple sexual assaults” and the idea that the Cubs were considering a manager with those issues in his background had my attention.
I’m going to pause here with a couple of key pieces of information.
First, after Francona shared some initial documents and allegations over email I immediately knew two of the incidents he was talking about. One involves a minor who was allegedly assaulted during Spring Training in 2015 and a subsequent cover-up. The second involves the alleged assault of a hotel maid by a Dodgers minor league player. This was also covered up. I knew there was a story to be told here, I was just praying it wouldn’t be a Cubs story. I also wasn’t entirely sure what the story was.
Second, in case you all haven’t noticed I’m kind of a research junkie. So I did some cross-checking of what Francona sent me. One of the first pieces I found was a write-up from Sports Illustrated from last February. That story documented most of what I’d gleaned from my conversations with Francona, and then some. More on that piece in a second, but the existence of it gave me pause about writing an additional piece unless the Cubs or some other team appeared to be moving forward with hiring Kapler. After all, it didn’t seem necessary to re-write a piece that was written better than I could have written it. The SI piece covered every allegation better than I could. It had sources and interviews I didn’t have access to. It also did a good job of analyzing some of the tension between Kapler and Francona, including the fact that Francona had effectively been fired by Kapler.
Well, Tuesday the Giants hired Gabe Kapler, so I wanted to add my small piece to this story.
Returning to the Sports Illustrated piece, the thing that jumped out at me first was that despite devoting two-thirds of the piece to Francona and his history, nothing about the substance of Francona’s allegations regarding these incidents seemed incorrect. Yes, there was clearly tension between Francona and Kapler. Yes, there was clearly tension between Francona and MLB. But there was a lot less tension about the substance of the allegations against Kapler and the Dodgers. From the SI piece (bold added):
In late February 2015, Gabe Kapler, then the Dodgers’ director of player development, called one of his lieutenants, assistant director of player development Nick Francona. He shared some alarming news. Kapler told Francona that “Something had gone on” at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Glendale, Ariz., the team hotel just a few miles from the Dodgers’ spring training complex.
As Francona remembers the conversation, Kapler’s account was vague but troubling: “He didn’t have a ton of information at that point. It sounded like there was some type of disturbance at the hotel involving a few players who had been drinking with some girls in their room and playing loud music.”
Kapler was basing his report on an email he had received from the grandmother of a 17-year-old girl who claimed that the previous evening, the granddaughter had been asked to party in a hotel room with two older women and two Dodgers minor leaguers. The girl, a runaway, said she had consumed half a bottle of vodka, vomited on a bed and then been beaten up by the two women—all while someone in the group recorded video that was later posted on Snapchat. “It was clear that there was more to it,” says Francona. “[Gabe] said we would figure it out at the complex in the coming days.”
Instead of referring to police the allegations of physical assault of a 17-year-old at the hotel, Kapler took an unusual step: Unaware of the details and scope of the incident, he attempted to organize a dinner meeting. He would invite the Dodgers players and the alleged victim and then attempt to mediate the situation himself.
I will let you read the rest of that piece for yourself. It includes a description of the sexual assault of a minor by a player in the Dodgers’ organization. It also details how those events remained secret for over two years. Two years where current President of Giants’ Baseball Operations, Farhan Zaidi was the Dodgers’ General Manager.
That is far from the only strike on Kapler’s (or Zaidi’s) public record.
The Daily Beast reported a second incident of sexual assault that also occurred under Kapler’s watch. In 2015 a hotel maid was assaulted by a Dodgers minor leaguer:
“I guess for a few weeks now [the player] has been making remarks and asking her to go out with him,” the manager wrote in an email to a team official that was obtained by The Daily Beast. “She keeps telling him that she has a boyfriend and is not interested but he still keeps making comments.”
The ballplayer, the manager wrote, would not take no for an answer.
“On Sunday things elevated where she was cleaning another room and he came up behind her and grabbed her,” the email continued. “She pushed him back and he came back and grabbed her yet again. She told him that she wasn’t interested and that he needed to leave and he did.”
As news of the 2015 incident spread throughout the Dodgers’ player-development staff, the club appeared to have little doubt about the housekeeper’s credibility or the severity of the incident, the email chain shows.
Kapler’s statement on that incident is later in the same piece:
Gabe Kapler, who was then head of player development for the Dodgers and is now manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, spoke with the Hampton Inn manager. In a subsequent email to other Dodgers officials, Kapler wrote that “his report made me feel embarrassed for our organization. I assured him that we’d address the situation swiftly and that this would not be an issue going forward.”
And that’s not all. The SI piece above references a third incident in 2016:
The following spring, Dodgers staffers discussed a third alleged incident occurring at the Glendale Hampton Inn. Surveillance video revealed that multiple players including a top prospect were confronting female guests and, as one source familiar with the video characterized it to SI, “stalking…. and behaving strangely.” Guests had complained to hotel staff, who alerted the Dodgers personnel, who confronted the players and apologized to the hotel.
The sheer number of allegations — three over an 18-month period — is staggering. As is the fact that they were brought to light not by the Dodgers organization, new Giants manager Gabe Kapler, nor his boss Farhan Zaidi. They were brought to light in 2017 by Nick Francona. The Dodgers’ response to this in the SI piece is below:
The Dodgers contend that if Francona was so concerned about the way the incident was handled, he did nothing at the time to indicate it. “[Nick Francona] was on the ground with Gabe Kapler,” says Schindler, the Dodgers’ outside counsel. “He had the exact same set of facts. Nick Francona never raised the issue to anybody. He did not call police. He did not call legal. He called no one within the Dodgers’ organization.”
Texts and emails indicate that Francona made his displeasure known to his co-workers. He called into question Kapler’s leadership. But there’s no indication he took the matter to his ultimate boss, Dodgers general manager Andrew Friedman. Pressed on this point, Francona says, “Going to Andrew was not an option; Gabe was the sole path to Andrew,” Francona says. “You don’t want to say, ‘Not my problem.’ But even in retrospect, I don’t know what more I could have done. I tried to do the right thing internally.”
Notice, the Dodgers don’t deny wrongdoing here. They merely call into question Francona’s motives and actions. That seems to have worked in the short term since Zaidi and Kapler are employed by the Giants and Francona is not working in baseball after spending a year with the Mets. However, as I read these words earlier this fall it seems incredible to me that this was the Dodgers’ only defense. At the end of the day this isn’t about whether Francona is employed in baseball or not. This is about whether Kapler and Zaidi, who are now both employed by the Giants, were involved in multiple cover-ups.
As if multiple sexual assault accusations in a year and a half were not enough, there is actually more here. Our SB Nation Giants site McCovey Chronicles uncovered yet another controversy tied to Gabe Kapler’s time with the Dodgers after his hiring was announced tonight. It turns out he and Zaidi also potentially have ties to the federal investigation into international signing scandal currently under investigation by the FBI:
There are a lot of Dodgers employees, but the general manager and the director of player development certainly are near the top of the totem pole when it comes to issues regarding international scouting and signing.
Truthfully, Zaidi and the Giants executives should have had to answer for this when San Francisco hire him. But they didn’t. They were never asked.
And now the team has hired a second party who could very well be a subject in an investigation. The matter can’t be brushed aside any longer. Zaidi and Kapler need to both be asked about their involvement in, and knowledge of the Dodgers actions.
I reached out to Nick Francona last night after Kapler’s contract was announced because I wanted to know his thoughts, here is what he said:
“It isn’t surprising. The real question is why Farhan Zaidi is even in the position he is in to make this decision. As the GM of the Dodgers, he made a deliberate and explicit choice to allow corruption and other illegal activities to continue unabated because he was afraid he wouldn’t be allowed to acquire the players if he stopped it. He can claim he had no knowledge, but that would be a lie. At the end of the day, he was the GM of a team whose activities resulted in a significant federal criminal investigation, which speaks for itself.
”Kapler’s hiring also highlights so much of the cowardice and hypocrisy in the baseball media. That doesn’t apply to everyone, but there is reason that some really fundamental questions were never even asked, which is troubling and indicative of a larger failure to pursue the truth even when it is uncomfortable. It is particularly hypocritical in light of so much of the commentary about the Astros ethical shortcomings. It also speaks to the lack of ethics that has thoroughly polluted the industry, which is enabled by so many complicit members of the baseball media.”
In the end, the most disturbing part of all of this may be who hired Kapler. He wasn’t hired by a front office that failed to connect the dots, or didn’t do their due diligence. He was hired by a man who used to be in the same front office.
There are only 30 MLB managerial positions. What does it say about Major League Baseball that the Giants thought their best possible candidate for one of those openings is a man with a sub-.500 record as the manager of a team built to contend and all of these question marks on his record?