Johnny Damon leads “players only meeting” as Rays fall to 0-6

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Yesterday the Rays lost their sixth straight game to begin the season and afterward Johnny Damon led “a brief players-only meeting,” according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.

Topkin reports that “Damon didn’t talk for long, and he wasn’t the only one, as Felipe Lopez also spoke up, in stressing to the others to stay positive.”

If a team goes on a big winning streak following a players-only meeting it tends to become a big story, as people assume it turned things around, but short of that they’re mostly forgotten within a few days. That’ll probably happen here as well, but I do find it interesting that the two guys leading the meeting, Damon and Lopez, are new to the team this season. In fact, Lopez wasn’t even on the Opening Day roster.

They’re both veterans, but I’m guessing the whole concept loses a little something when the rah-rah speeches are coming from two guys everyone else on the team met six weeks ago. Neither player has actually won a game as a member of the Rays yet and Damon is hitting .053 through six games.

Giants hire Gabe Kapler as new manager

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The Giants announced on Tuesday the hiring of Gabe Kapler as manager. Kapler, filling the extremely large shoes of future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy, inked a three-year deal, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. Kapler was one of three finalists for the job, beating out Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Rays bench coach Matt Quataro.

Following his 12-year playing career, Kapler was a coach for Israel’s team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifier. He then became an analyst for FS1 before joining the Dodgers’ front office as the director of player development in November 2014. He was involved in three scandals there: one in which he tried to handle a sexual assault incident involving two Dodgers minor league players without telling police, one in which he allegedly discriminated against Nick Francona, a veteran and former baseball operations employee, and an incident that implicated most of the Dodgers’ front office concerning the recruiting of international free agents. The Dodgers reportedly kept a spreadsheet of employees and their level of criminality.

Despite Kapler’s background, the Phillies hired him as their manager ahead of the 2018 season. He would lead the Phillies to an 80-82 record that year and then helped them improve by one game in 2019, finishing at exactly .500 before being fired. Kapler’s tenure in Philly was tumultuous, often drawing ire from the local media and subsequently the fan base for not being tough enough on his players. The Phillies also reportedly had a clubhouse issue in 2018 in which players were playing video games in the clubhouse during games, prompting Carlos Santana to smash a TV with a bat.

Kapler has a history with Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations. They worked together in the Dodgers’ front office as Zaidi served as GM from November 2014-18.