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WIESBADEN — Poor Sal Bando. It never fails.

Everywhere the captain of the world champion Oakland A's goes, people ask the same questions.

They have to do with a couple of his teammates named Gene Tenace and Vida Blue.

The USAFE baseball clinic here wasn't any different.

"Is Gene Tenace gonna run for mayor next year?", asked one young man.

"He probably could," answered Sal, smiling at the thought of his roomie sitting behind a big desk in Oakland's city hall.

"How do you put up with Vida Blue?", someone else bluntly asked.

"I'll tell you why we do," the A's third baseman replied. "When a guy's going to make you a lot of money you overlook a lot of things."

Blue, of course, missed the early part of the 1972 season as his bitter salary hassle with Oakland owner Charles O. Finley dominated the sports pages.

Vida finally did agree to lower his demands. But the talented young lefthander could only notch six wins compared to his Cy Young-winning 24 in '71.

Bando doesn't think the A's will have any trouble signing Blue this year.

"No way, he says. "Vida won't even come close to being a problem.

"He learned too much about what it can do to him. The money isn't worth it. He could have had two 20-game seasons back-to-back. Instead, he won 24 then 6.

"What did he gain?"

Sal thinks the $50,000 that Finley offered Blue was fair.

"I thought Vida was worth more," Sal admits, "but you can only get so much after one year. Economics dictate that."

Bando believes that what really hurt Blue was challenging Finley in the papers. "'With Finley, if you just don't say anything he'll pay you more," Sal contends.

"I definitely feel that Vida's lawyer messed him up. The guy was just a publicity hound. He didn't have Vida's best interests at heart."

Bando, incidentally, handles his own contract negotiations.

Tenace and Blue weren't the only A's to be the subject of questions at the clinic.

Oakland's trade with Texas — making slugger Mike Epstein an ex-A — also got its share of attention.

According to Bando, Oakland didn't give up too much to land Horacio Pina, a righthanded reliever.

"From a writer's standpoint, it was a bad trade," admitted Sal. "But from a player's, it was good.

"Pina's excellent on righthanded hitters. Sure, we already have Rollie Fingers. But he can't go every day.

"Besides, you never have enough pitching."

It was their strong pitching staff — along with the home run bat of Mr. Tenace — that carried the A's past the Cincinnati Reds in the last World Series.

Bando looks for Oakland's pitching to be even stronger this year.

"Pina is better than (Bob) Locker (traded to the Chicago Cubs). And we added another experienced lefthanded reliever in Paul Lindblad (also from Texas).

"Blue should be in spring training, so he'll be more effective. (Blue Moon) Odom will also have an early start, so he'll be stronger, too.

"Catfish Hunter is just reaching his peak — he's won 20 the last two years. And Ken Holtzman will be in the league another year, so he'll know the hitters better. He won 19."

While the Oakland pitchers ranked second behind Baltimore in the American League with a combined 2.58 earned run average, the Swinging A's weren't swinging so well.

They finished sixth in team batting with a .240 mark. Bando,. although he remained the club's top RBI man — with 77 — fell from a .271 average with 24 homers in '71 to .236 and 15 last year.

"Seventy-two was an off-year for us offensively," said Sal. "I don't think we'll have two years like that in a row."

If Bando's right, 11 American League clubs can forget all about the '73 World Series.

Part of it will be played in Oakland again this year.


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