Gabe Kapler defends against Wade Meckler for the winning toss

© Ed Szczepanski | August 15, 2023

Wade Meckler, in his second game, felt weak.

The rookie wasn’t getting the calls he should have, but he didn’t think it was his place to talk to home plate umpire Chad Whitson. Silently, she continued to snuggle.

“You don’t want to be disrespectful and say anything,” Meckler said after the game. “Even if I say that respectfully, they could say I’ve played two major league games.”

Instead of letting the bad calls continue, manager Gabe Kapler acted as Meckler’s voice. From the dugout, he expressed his frustration to Whitson. Then, after standing up, Kapler got his money’s worth.

Kapler’s second shutout of 2023 and seventh as a Major League manager was worth it. It sent a message to Meckler that the rookie should continue to be selective in the batter’s box and showed him that the rest of the team had some fire during a stretch in which the club had lost seven of nine. The Giants were deadlocked in a scoreless tie when Kapler threw himself out. They cruised to a 7-0 win over Tampa Bay as he watched on the cage monitor.

“It’s really nice to have a coach that’s going to go out there and stick up for you, especially when you can’t really say anything as a player,” Meckler said.

In the morning, Kapler read a story from 2022 on Oregon Live about Meckler’s rise. He was a small freshman in high school who smiled during a walk-through at Oregon State, where he essentially defied the coaching staff’s decision to cut him. He was so dedicated to improving, Meckler trained at an injury prevention facility, took up rock climbing to improve grip strength, and swung in the cage until his hands bled.

“He had to grind and fight every step of the way,” Kapler said after the game.

Kapler sided with Meckler because he noticed the calls weren’t going well for the rookie from the start. The manager said he felt Meckler had gotten “Fd” the night before with a tight belt and it only continued on Tuesday.

By Meckler’s second at-bat, in the fourth inning, Kapler was fed up. Wearing a cut-off City Connect hoodie and orange underwear, Kapler got in Whitson’s face and motioned to him that he had missed three calls.

“Obviously, I didn’t think they were hits in his first at-bat,” Kapler said. “Wade didn’t think they were strikes. I was just visibly irritated and reacted. But he really fought back from Meck, who deserved to be supported by all of us – all the players and the staff.”

One of Meckler’s best attributes as a hitter is his ability to distinguish balls and strikes — and make the right corresponding swing decisions. His plate discipline has helped him to a .463 on-base percentage across three minor league levels this year.

After Meckler’s first at-bat Tuesday night, Kapler told him to stick to his game plan. The most effective, disciplined hitters are stubborn in their approach. A few bad calls shouldn’t change that. over time, the strike zone will be your friend.

However, Meckler was disappointed. He had gone 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game and struck out to start his second. And his lips were sealed.

Ultimately, Meckler hopes umpires will recognize and respect his opinions as some of the best hitters in the game. The Giants have repeatedly said that LaMonte Wade Jr., for example, often knows the strike zone better than many umpires. The same can be true of sluggers like Juan Soto and Brandon Belt. When they accept, they are more likely to receive calls.

Until then, Kapler wants Meckler to know it’s going to be smooth. There’s no problem with him turning around respectfully and saying where he thought he missed a pitch, but it may take some time to earn respect.

“I think just keep making the right decisions and eventually build a reputation that I know where the strike zone is, so if I say something, there’s a reason behind it,” Meckler said.

After Kapler was ejected, Meckler tallied his first and second career big league hits. The first was a line drive single with an exit velocity of 98.8 mph, and the other was a squibbed infield single that won with excellent speed down the first base line.

“I think he’s going to know the zone well and I think he’s going to make good decisions at the plate,” Kapler said. “That’s kind of been his calling card throughout his career.”

The Giants have already shown they believe in Meckler with their actions. In his first two games, he was put second in the batting order. They let him bat on debut against a left-hander despite looking for platoon advantages so often.

Now, after Kapler’s suspension, the club has shown it has his back.

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