Q. The conventional wisdom was that you would go into the free agent pool to pick up some help in the bullpen and in the middle infield. You seem to have done that. Overall, how would you rate your free agent acquisitions this year?
A. We found more than I expected -- Tony Oliva has the makings of a slugging outfielder. Don Wert will develop into a top-quality third baseman. And frankly, I was surprised to find a reliever of Fred Gladding's caliber. And we were thrilled to pick up [shortstop] Dick Green.
Q. The acquisition of Green -- obviously that was tied to your decision to trade Jim Fregosi.
A. Well, we might have signed Dick even if we hadn't traded Jim. But certainly Dick gives us security for the future in the middle infielder. Jerry Adair will return at second and Denis Menke is coming up from Bakersfield to start at short. Then we have Julio Gotay, who can play both positions. That gives us the luxury of watching Dick develop -- and I believe he will develop into a first-rate shortstop in a year or two.
Q. What about Sonny Jackson?
A. The determination is that he'll benefit from one more year at Bakersfield.
Q. Which brings us to Fregosi -- a key ingredient in the Dusters' success last year. And yet he's gone.
A. He was a key ingredient, no doubt about that. I hated to see him go. But we just couldn't pay what he was asking -- what he deserved. Jim deserves every penny of the money he's getting. But it just didn't work for us at this stage.
Q. Fregosi's new contract is worth $100,000 for three years. Hal Reniff was asking nearly as much, and he's gone, too.
A. Speaking of key ingredients -- Reniff was the best closer in baseball last year, with 53 saves. But there again, as much as we wanted to, we couldn't meet the asking price.
Q. At the end of this season you've got a number of players eligible for free agency, including Billy Williams and Donn Clendenon. Is it possible that they might meet the same fate as Fregosi and Reniff?
A. 'Meet the same fate?' Sounds like we had them executed. (Laughs) We've increased our team salary by 50% this year -- even without Jim and Hal. We can't reasonably expect our revenues to increase 50%, too, not in a medium market like ours, the World Series win notwithstanding. So we had to look at what we may have to spend at the end of this year before we decided how much we could spend at the end of last year.
Q. The Duster franchise reported a net profit of about $150,000 last season. What kind of numbers do you project for this season?
A. Frankly, I'll be pleased if we break even.
Q. So you're saying you expect to need last year's profits as well as this year's to keep the team largely intact for '65.
A. Something like that, yes.
Q. So let's look at what you got for Fregosi and Reniff. You traded Fregosi to Houston for a pair of rookies, a catcher [Jerry Grote] and a second baseman [Joe Morgan], and Reniff went to the Mets for another pitcher, Frank Linzy. Both of those trades have been criticized. Some people say you got the short end of the stick in both cases.
A. All three of those players are at Bakersfield, so we'll just watch and see how they develop -- and in time we'll know if the critics are right.
Q. That's part of the criticism -- that you didn't get anyone who can help you this year.
A. We had several players at Bakersfield who we had to bring up. Denis Menke. Rico Carty. Ed Kranepool. Mickey Lolich and Wally Bunker. There is simply no room on the roster.
Q. So you're happy with the trades.
A. Absolutely. My job is to make this team as good as it can be five years from now. Not just this year.
Q. You released Pete Richert to free agency. You'd made it clear that you couldn't keep your starting rotation intact ....
A. Partly for financial reasons. Partly because we needed to call Bunker and Lolich up.
Q. Not Denny McLain? He was called up briefly last year when your rotation was riddled with injuries.
A. Denny may come up later this year. We'll see. If not, certainly next year.
Q. A lot of people expected you to pass on Dave McNally, who was 11-11 last year, and keep Richert, who was 14-5. Instead, you signed McNally to a one-year extension for $53,000, making him the second highest-paid player on the team.
A. I relied on the coaching staff to make the determination -- and they're convinced that Dave has the potential. Remember, Dave's ERA was much lower than Pete's. Second-lowest in the rotation. He had some bad breaks last year. Sometimes you have seasons like that. We want to give him another chance. See how he fares this year.
Q. Who will be your closer, in place of Reniff? Claude Raymond or Fred Gladding?
A. That's a decision Ben Naylor will make. I believe right now he's leaning towards Frenchy -- Claude Raymond.
Q. You forgot to mention Bob Bailey. He's up from AAA. Will he be challenging Clete Boyer for the start at third base?
A. Well, we HOPE he'll challenge Clete. But right now Clete is our starting third sacker.
Q. There was speculation that you would let Vic Power go, considering his age and his salary. But you kept him.
A. Vic is a great player -- and a great influence on the younger guys. He has mastered every position on the field, with the possible exception of backstop. He's got one more year on his contract, and he has talked about retirement, and we'd like to keep him with the organization, in some capacity, if possible.
Q. You really are always thinking about the future.
A. That's my job.
Q. You re-signed outfielder Rico Carty before last season was over, and he has been called up, too. Will he start, and if so, who will he replace in the outfield?
A. Billy Williams, Lee Maye and Albie Pearson are slated to start in the outfield. But Rico will be our first choice when one of them needs a rest or, God forbid, is injured.
Q. Do you think you've addressed any shortcomings the team had last year? Were there any shortcomings? After all, it was an amazing season for the Nevada Dusters. You accomplished something that has never been done before -- winning a world championship in your freshman year.
A. Hard to find fault with that, isn't it? I don't think we had any glaring deficiencies. But certainly we can try to improve in all areas. Personally, I think we'll be more potent in terms of offensive production.
Q. Any prediction for this year?
A. Well, this is baseball, so who really knows what will happen? I just hope we're competing for that pennant when September rolls around.
Q. And if you aren't?"
A. Simple -- we just work harder than ever and look to 1965.