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Posted: Wednesday April 15, 2009 5:38PM; Updated: Friday April 17, 2009 3:40PM
Ted Keith Ted Keith >
BASEBALL MAILBAG

Boston's catching needs, Toronto's third-place dreams, more mailbag

Story Highlights

With three talented young catchers, Texas is the best trade partner for Boston

Even if everything falls into place for Toronto, it’ll still only finish in third

More on Roger Clemons, the Steroids Era and interference solutions

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Texas' Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be the ideal replacement for declining Boston catcher Jason Varitek.
Texas' Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be the ideal replacement for declining Boston catcher Jason Varitek.
Jim Cowsert/Icon SMI
Ted Keith's Mailbag
Ted Keith will answer select questions from SI.com users in his Baseball Mailbag.
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Welcome to the season's first mailbag. Technically it's the second, but I'm putting an asterisk next to the one from February about Alex Rodriguez. Speaking of which, let's put aside any A-Rod or steroids talk now that the games are (finally) here and providing plenty of other discussion points, including the Big Apple's two new stadiums, the upside-down standings and baseball's continuing efforts to have every player sport ridiculous looking facial hair. Let's dive in.

Now that A-Rod and other steroid cheaters, wife beaters and law breakers are still playing major league baseball and some are probably in the Hall of Fame, do you think Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose will finally get in? Or is it Joe Jackson's and Pete Rose's fault for playing in a less sensitive, less forgiving time?
-- Bill Hewson, Buena Park, Fla.

So much for that idea. I don't think the continued exclusion of Jackson and Rose has as much to do with the sensitivity of the times in which they played as the nature of the crime they committed. Betting on baseball is the game's cardinal sin, and that is what Jackson and Rose did. There are signs in every clubhouse spelling out the egregiousness of betting on the game, and Rose did it anyway. He also didn't do himself any favors by continuing to deny he gambled and then only coming clean once he had a book to sell. The crimes committed by steroid users were no less acceptable, but they occurred in a culture that allowed that behavior to grow. Betting on the game has been intolerable for decades.

I know you can never have enough pitching, but the Red Sox are in need of a catcher in the next year. I think that the longer you wait to pull the trigger, the more it will cost you to get one that you would want for the next five to six years. We have an abundance of both starting pitching and relief pitching to give up and maybe a prospect to get the likes of a Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden. What is your take on this?
-- Robert Anderson, Worcester, Mass.

There were reports during the offseason that the Rangers were looking for Boston to include Clay Buchholz in any deal to get either Saltalamacchia or Teagarden. Two things are clear: the Red Sox will need a catcher soon, perhaps as soon as midseason, and the Rangers will have one (or two) to spare. Jason Varitek may be a beloved figure in Boston, but his .200 batting average isn't. It would be hard to imagine the Red Sox making a deal that would in effect demote their captain, but come the offseason they'll have another decision to make. Varitek's deal features a $5 million club option for 2010 and a $3 million player option, so there's a decent chance he'll be back in Boston next season.

The Rangers, meanwhile, not only have Salty and Teagarden (the better defender of the two) but also 24-year-old Max Ramirez. Ramirez, who has maintained a .312 batting average in five minor league seasons, tore up Double A in 2008, batting .354/.450/.646 and earning a promotion to Triple A and, at year's end, the parent club. He's back in the minors after playing in the World Baseball Classic this spring, but it won't be long before he's ready for significant playing time in the majors. There's no reason to hold on to three top-flight catchers, so unless the Rangers are willing to ask one of them to change positions, a trade would be the most likely scenario.

Rather than using instant replay, wouldn't it make more sense to require teams to have a real fence, so that a ball that is hit over the fence is a home run, and if the ball bounces back into the field of play it is not a home run? No more painting a line and saying that above the line is a HR, below is not; no more fans sitting close enough to reach into the field of play and interfere?
-- David Parsons, Salem, Ore.

Fans always have been and always will be able to reach into the field of play, and not just to disrupt a home run ball (as Chicago Cubs fans remember all too well). Being close to the action makes for a better experience for the fans, a better environment for the players and a more exciting atmosphere in the ballpark and on television. That alone is reason enough to keep fans as close to the field as possible, but it isn't the only reason, and I'll give you one guess as to what that other reason is. If teams have an opportunity to sell tickets by putting seats right at the fence, they will. Baseball is a business, and money, especially in difficult economic conditions, will continue to influence much of a franchise's decision-making. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that.

Is there any hope for the Astros this year?
-- Mark Pachankisq, Vivian, La.

Sure, the Astros can hope for many things this season -- short of making it to October, that is. After a 1-6 start, the Astros are already four games out in the National League Central and there haven't been many bright spots, either. They rank last in the league in runs, last in on-base percentage and 14th in ERA. There simply don't appear to have enough pitching to stay competitive in the NL Central this year.

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