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Lure of Dodgers 'think tank' landed Gabe Kapler

LOS ANGELES -- Gabe Kapler seemed to have a pretty good thing going.

He lives in a beautiful Malibu canyon. Over a 12-season major-league career, he made more than $9 million, so the need to drive to an office every day probably wasn’t a pressing one. He stayed in the game by doing studio work for Fox baseball broadcasts. On air, he touted advanced analytics, a taste he had picked up while playing under, and befriending, Andrew Friedman in Tampa Bay.

In his spare time, he ran a blog, kaplifestyle.com, where he offers tips on living the Southern California good life, topics ranging from fitness and nutrition to mixing a martini, James Bond style.

So why would he want to leave all that for a job that would force him to fly to all over the country and babysit young players while tackle the bureaucratic and personnel hassles of re-imagining the Los Angeles Dodgers' entire player development system? When Friedman, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations, reached out to Kapler, he wasn’t quite sure what he’d hear.

“The only question for me was whether it was something he wanted to do,” Friedman said. “Once he said it was, I will bet on him to have a significant impact in our organization.”

Friedman, it’s fair to say, gained an appreciation for Kapler’s abilities while watching him bat .228 in his final two seasons in the majors.

“Gabe has a tremendous mind, a thirst for knowledge and he’s a great leader of people,” Friedman said. “His passionate enthusiasm is something that I think is going to resonate throughout our entire minor-league operations.”

Kapler said the thrill of being part of a new kind of front office, one that features one Doctor of Economics, general manager Farhan Zaidi, a former financial trader, Friedman, and a total of five former or current GMs, was what lured him out of Malibu to take the farm director job for the Dodgers. They envision it as a baseball think tank.

“I’ve always looked for opportunities to be inspired when I come to work,” Kapler said. “I certainly have that at Fox. Now, it seems I’m going to have that with a pretty special group of men and women with the Dodgers.”

Kapler wasn’t big on offering details of his vision for the Dodgers’ minor-league system. He had only been on the job 48 hours, after all, and he said he wanted to be sensitive to the people who are already working under him. But it’s fair to say the Dodgers will undertake studies and look to try new ways of preparing players that could win them an edge when those players, or at least some of them, reach the majors.

Kapler is the only front office member at the executive level who has actually experienced what major leaguers go through, but he downplayed that as his contribution to the group. After the Dodgers hired Zaidi to be GM, former Dodgers utility player Ryan Theriot tweeted that only former players should be allowed to be GMs, a notion Kapler clearly rejects.

“I actually think we bring a lot of similar pluses,” Kapler said. “We’re all devoted to developing better men in addition to better baseball players. I think we all have the philosophy of standing shoulder to shoulder with a similar mission while pushing each other and trying to extract the best possible answer to the tough question.

“I certainly don’t think being a baseball player gave me a leg up as regards my ability to always ask the question, ‘Why?’"