I’ve seen lots of wondrous things. I’ve seen a dog lap milk from his master’s mouth. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon. I’ve seen Donnie Moore pitch and Dave Henderson swing.
But it wasn’t until this spring that I saw the most unexpected sight of all: the revised and long overdue edition of Douglas Lee Rader, the Angels’ third manager in three years.
Dare we call it a metamorphosis, a miracle? Because if appearances are to be believed, Rader has gone from jerk to jewel, unwielding to understanding.
In short, Dour Doug has become Dale Carnegie.
Mind you, it’s early. The Angels have yet to encounter one of their seasonal swoons, or been stricken by injuries to their starting rotation, or played host to the Oakland Athletics. But that will come and when it does, it will be interesting to watch the reaction of the former Mt. Vesuvius.
Until then, Rader deserves the benefit of the doubt. He’s earned it, don’t you think? After all, the old Doug Rader used to be a candidate for distemper shots.
The new Doug Rader whistles while he works.
The old Doug Rader used to berate players on the pitcher’s mound.
The new Doug Rader hands out compliments as if they were roses from a bouquet.
The old Doug Rader never turned the other cheek.
The new Doug Rader is the picture of compromise.
The old Doug Rader inflicted his managerial will on the 1983 Texas Rangers, wringing 77 victories and a third-place finish out of a mediocre team.
The new Doug Rader says the price of each win was too high. “You end up exhausting everyone emotionally and physically. And you end up with too many adversarial relationships,” he says.
The old Doug Rader, by his own admission, was not fun to play for.
The new Doug Rader vows he will be.
The old Doug Rader never met a confrontation he didn’t like.
The new Doug Rader has met plenty of them.
The old Doug Rader was upset and bitter about being fired as Ranger manager in 1985.
The new Doug Rader says “I’d had died” if he would have been retained by Ranger management. “I was just digging myself so deep into a hole. I had to be fired. It was just becoming unbearable for everyone: me, the players. It was something that absolutely had to be done,” he says.
The old Doug Rader listened to too many people during his time with Texas.
The new Doug Rader says he’ll listen to his best instincts.
The old Doug Rader thought he could transform a fledgling franchise into winners.
The new Doug Rader is less Pollyannic.
The old Doug Rader thought “every pitch, every out, every inning was supposed to be played absolutely full-out intense.”
The new Doug Rader says there are some ballgames “that you’re just not going to win.”
The old Doug Rader was renown for his postgame temper tantrums.
The new Doug Rader preaches patience, perseverance and optimism. “Keep an even keel,” he says. “If you lose one, then you try to win the next two. But there are some situations where you have no chance of succeeding.”
The old Doug Rader used to march around the dugout trying to figure out ways to turn outs into Ranger hits, balls into strikes, losses into wins.
The new Doug Rader says, “Gimme a break.”
The old Doug Rader was haunted by his past.
The new Doug Rader says he has learned from it.
The old Doug Rader would have snapped back had a question about his failings at Texas been asked.
The new Doug Rader contends that his Ranger experience isn’t ruled by the statute of limitations. “I’m a realist,” he says. “I think that some form of penance lasts a little longer than others.”
The old Doug Rader led the league in scowls.
The new Doug Rader led the Cactus League in jocularity.
The old Doug Rader considered managing a chore, like cleaning out the rain gutters.
The new Doug Rader considers managing “a joy. I appreciate it a lot more,” he says.
The old Doug Rader could explode at any time.
The new Doug Rader says he won’t, though he doesn’t blame people for being suspicious, even doubtful of his attitude. “I think it’s reasonable for people to think that way,” he says. “It’s like everything else: you’ve got to demonstrate it, you just can’t say it. I don’t think those people are wrong for feeling that way.”
The old Doug Rader would have flipped if his star first baseman hurt himself playing basketball.
The new Doug Rader rolled like Wally Joyner’s ankle.
The old Doug Rader used to like players who were feisty, hard-nosed, Rader clones.
The new Doug Rader realizes that talent can come in all packages.
The old Doug Rader distrusted anyone carrying a pen and a note pad.
The new Doug Rader goes so far as to play peacemaker between an angry player and a newspaper reporter.
The old Doug Rader could be a bully.
The new Doug Rader tosses out souvenirs for little kids.
The old Doug Rader didn’t care if everyone thought his initials were S.O.B.
The new Doug Rader says he has nothing against being liked.
The old Doug Rader once wore a Rangers cap.
The new Doug Rader wears an Angels cap, the one with the tiny halo above the letter A.
Imagine that: Rader with a halo on his head. Wouldn’t it be nice if it stayed that way?