02/27/2006 10:10 PM ET
Mailbag: Is O'Neill Hall worthy?
Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon answers readers' questions
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

I think Paul O'Neill is a Hall of Famer. He was one of the most clutch players I have ever seen. He was one good season shy of 300 home runs and 1,300 RBIs. What's your take on it? -- Gerald, Pikeville, N.C.

I always enjoyed watching O'Neill play for both Cincinnati and New York, but he was not a Hall of Fame caliber player. He was a .288 career hitter, never won an MVP award and had just one batting title in the 1994 strike season. Also in an era when 3,000 hits and/or 500 home runs would clinch most bids, O'Neill's 281 homers and 2,105 hits fall way short.

O'Neill had a very good clip of seasons for the Yankees in the late 90s, but unfortunately, they all happened after he turned 30. His first 100-plus RBIs season didn't come until he was 34 years old. If he was able to post those excellent numbers earlier in his career with the Reds, there might have been a chance he would get a closer look at going to Cooperstown.

Do you think the Reds really got what they needed when they traded Joe Randa to the Padres for Justin Germano and Travis Chick? I was looking at their stats in the Minors and let's just say that I wasn't really blown away.
-- Zach E. Milford, Ohio

Randa was going to be a free agent at the end of the 2005 season and the Reds probably figured it was better to get something for him rather than lose him this winter and get nothing. I can understand that line of thought, but I can't provide a fully informed opinion on the merits of the trade because I have yet to see either guy pitch.

The Reds needed pitching, and this deal also appeared to be an attempt to address that. Germano is considered to be in the mix for the big-league rotation's fifth spot out of camp should Paul Wilson not be ready. Chick was a top-end pitching prospect for San Diego. The Reds like the way both pitchers throw strikes.

I've been a fan of the Reds for 30 years. I'm curious to know what ever happened to my all-time favorite pitcher, No. 36, Mario Soto?
-- Fernando C. Baldwin Park, Calif.

Since retiring in 1988, Soto has been living in his native Dominican Republic. Last season, he helped the organization by working with some prospects at its Latin American Academy. As part of Bob Castellini's effort to reach out to former Reds, Soto was invited to Spring Training to work as a special instructor. He looks like he's in great shape and the coaching staff has enjoyed having him around to help out.

I like the idea of bringing back Jeff Shaw. I heard last year that he still lives in Washington Court House, Ohio, and still stays in baseball shape. I want the Reds to win, but how about inviting some pitchers to Spring Training, instead of 35-year-old has-beens?
-- Jeremiah, O., Valdosta, Ga.

Jeff Shaw? Jeff Shaw? You don't want any more 35-year-old guys in Reds camp but you want Jeff Shaw, who turns 40 in July? (Pause for a laugh over your contradiction, which has now turned into a violent cough). Over his career, Shaw was a solid reliever for several teams -- including Cincinnati from 1996-98. He had 43 saves for the Dodgers the last time he pitched -- but that was in 2001. I'm sorry, but I don't believe he is the answer for the Reds right now.