Rice was feared, but Clark was better

The 550-some voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America were mailed their 2006 Hall of Fame ballots a few weeks ago. The question is, will the voters give this year's first-time candidates more attention than they did last year's? Probably not, because among the 14 first-time candidates on the ballot this year, none will receive more than token support from the voters, and only two of them -- Albert Belle and Will Clark (more on them later) -- deserve more than that. Gary DiSarcina and Gregg Jefferies were fine players, but they're not legitimate Hall of Fame candidates. The results will be announced Jan. 10.

There are also 15 holdovers from last year's ballot, and only one of those 15 (Willie McGee, if you must know) can't be considered a serious candidate. So the ballot includes 29 names, and I could, given a few hours and an Internet connection, construct convincing arguments for 16 of them. However, based on the voting results last time around, only a few candidates have any real shot at making it this time.

A year ago, Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg were elected, and rightfully so. The next five in the results were Bruce Sutter (67 percent; election takes 75 percent), Jim Rice (60), Goose Gossage (55), Andre Dawson (52) and Bert Blyleven (41).