Beerleaguer: Can you definitively say the Phillies are a better team today than the one that stepped off the field in Game 6?
Todd Zolecki: I think the Phillies are better than the '09 World Series team. I know people love Cliff Lee, but Roy Halladay is better than Lee. Is he much better? No, I would not say he is much better. But he is an upgrade, and that counts for something. If Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero and Raul Ibanez are healthy that also makes them better. I really like the addition of Polanco to the lineup, although I haven't seen enough of him at third base to know how much the Phillies will miss Pedro Feliz's defense. The Phillies have upgraded their bench. They think they have adequately replaced Chan Ho Park and Clay Condrey in the bullpen with Danys Baez and Jose Contreras. And I really like what I have seen from Cole Hamels this spring. I think he is going to bounce back in a big way. He really seems to be in a good frame of mind, determined to make everybody forget about his '09 postseason struggles.
Beerleaguer: I felt the same way until 97.5’s Mike Missanelli put the screws to me when he asked the same question in an interview last week. My endorsement unraveled when I brought up the bullpen. Right now, their closer and top lefty are recovering from surgery. They could be forced to lean on three green relievers to start the season. Contreras seems like a good sleeper signing, but he’s long of tooth and unproven in this role. If anyone from the group containing Contreras, Danys Baez, Ryan Madson or Chad Durbin gets hurt, they’re going to be in trouble. I’m not as excited about guys like Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon as the Phillies seem to be. We agree the bench is better. Ross Gload is the difference there, and I’m not as sour on Juan Castro as most Beerleaguers. I worry about Brian Schneider’s health because the minor league options are brutal. I’m not worried about the rotation and also expect improvement from Hamels. But I also expect some minor regression from J.A. Happ and possibly Joe Blanton. I’m not as excited about the addition of Polanco, but agree he’s a better fit for the lineup. Actually, I don’t believe we’ll see a noticeable improvement from the offense, not that there is much room for improvement. The Phillies are a powerhouse. I think they’re better, but I can’t say it with conviction. So my answer is 'no.'
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