The S.F. Giants fired their manager. Was it ChatGPT’s fault? And why it might matter for teachers.

The Secret Menu
5 min readOct 14, 2023

“It’s not enjoyable. It’s not fun. We have to make some big changes in here to create that winning culture ” Logan Webb, Pitcher, San Francisco Giants

Soon after Logan Webb’s comments the Giants fired their manager, Gabe Kapler. Kapler didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, the team wasn’t terrible, and almost made the playoffs each of the past two seasons. Not only were the Giants doing ok, but Kapler was just three season removed from leading the team to a franchise record 107 wins. So why did Webb feel that the team needed to make big changes? I blame ChatGPT, and I think that there might be something in this experience that teachers can learn from. So apologies for an extended baseball analogy, but here it goes.

The past two seasons the Giant’s lineup looked like what you might expect if you started each day by opening up ChatGPT and writing the following prompt: “You are the manager of the San Francisco Giants, what lineup would give us the best chance of winning today?” I should note that when I say ChatGPT, I’m referring to ChatGPT and all similar products us non-experts tend to call AI. For simplicity reasons I’m going to start saying “the robot” instead of ChatGPT and see how that goes.

While using the robot might seem like a reasonable thing to do, this led to a mixing and matching of players on a daily basis with results that were clearly neither fun nor enjoyable. In fact you could describe them as robot-like, not terrible, but not great. The Giants had become the baseball version of the essay that you might have the robot write for you. It’s not too bad, possibly a B+ essay, it gets the job done, but it’s no fun to write and not much fun to read. The whole thing feels a bit soulless. Webb’s call to action seemed to be based on the vibe of the team more than their record. Something was not connecting with the players. It wasn’t connecting with the fans either. Not only have the Giants been middle of the road in the standings, but they just posted the lowest attendance numbers that they’ve ever had at Oracle park, and they’ve definitely had worse teams.

Contrast Kapler’s time as manager to the person he replaced, Bruce Bochy. From 2010 to 2014 the San Francisco Giants won three world championships with Bochy as the manager. Bochy began managing almost 30 years ago, and is considered more of an old school manager. He trusts his gut, builds relationships with players based on paying close attention to them and knowing what needs to be done to bring out the best in them. Part of his success was rooted in his willingness to ride the hot hand, even when it didn’t seem logical. He did this most notably in the 2014 World Series when he had Madison Bumgarner pitch 21 innings (for context, the next closest Giant pitched 7 innings). Bumgarner won World Series MVP, and gave arguably the greatest World Series pitching performance ever. One of the reasons Bumgarner had this opportunity was because right after he pitched a shutout in game 5 he told Bochy that if he wanted to win the whole thing that he was going to have to put him out there again. Not only did Bochy put Bumgarner out there again on short rest, but he brought him in as a relief pitcher instead of in his usual role as a starter.

There was no data to suggest that this would work, but Bochy listened to his player, trusted his gut, and the rest is MLB history. This isn’t to say that Bochy ignored the analytics and still had a landline with an answering machine at his house. Actually he might have, but that’s not the point. Bochy still looked at the analytics and benefitted from the insights that they provided, but he was able to use the analytics in a way where he still maintained human connections. Bochy’s players did not feel as if they were just cogs in a machine the way the 2023 Giants may have felt

So what difference does all this make to a teacher? With the robot by their side, virtually any student at any grade level can complete a writing assignment that would be middle of the road. Any student can write an essay that is the equivalent of an 81–81 record. With an AI assistant, the question though is not if the essay gets the job done; it’s more a question of whether or not it represents the student’s voice and how the student feels about their work. When I taught English the essay the student turned in was a pretty good indication of their learning and their voice, but that is not necessarily the case anymore.

In this context maybe the teacher’s job becomes more about knowing the student and helping them develop their voice and their creative confidence and less about assessing the quality of the work. After an assignment does the student feel good about their writing and maybe consider the process enjoyable? Ok, enjoyable is a big stretch, but hopefully they feel good about what they wrote.

Or would the student feel like Logan Webb did after the 2023 baseball season? It was ok, but not enjoyable and not fun. The important thing is that the feelings associated with the task matter. How people feel about their work and their effort makes a difference. As we rush to learn how to harness the power of AI to make us more effective, we need to also pause and consider how it might make us feel.

No one I know has ever written anything using the robot, and said the process created joy or felt that they really got better as an individual by using the robot. If you do crack a smile when you have the robot do the writing it is either the first time you’ve used it and are surprised at how good it is, or the smile is rooted in the sense of relief you get because you didn’t have to do the hard thing of writing. These feelings are nice, but they are not joy and accomplishment.

The reason this is so important is because how we feel about something drives our motivation, which is an essential element of getting better at something. These feelings serve as the foundation for us being the best that we can be. Without a sense of joy or accomplishment, we will not unlock our full potential.

I don’t know exactly what it means to lead a classroom the same way that Bochy leads a team, but I do know that in his first year as manager of the Texas Rangers he has has the team in the League Championship Series for the first time in 12 years.

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