Who can stop the Phillies’ potential NL three-peat?

The Phillies can become the first National League team to reach three consecutive World Series since the Cardinals in 1942-44. The defending NL champions made the offseason’s biggest move by trading for righthander Roy Halladay, but two of the three teams with the best chance of unseating Philadelphia in the NL haven’t changed much.

A look at three threats to the Phillies, with analysis from each team’s manager:

Rockies
Last season, no NL club won more after May, and Colorado is likely to get better. The Rockies’ lineup is intact, and lefthanded starter Jeff Francis is healthy after a lost season (shoulder surgery). The club accomplished its No. 1 offseason goal by retaining setup man Rafael Betancourt, whose return assures a deep bullpen with defined roles.

Manager Jim Tracy says: "Depthwise, you feel really, really good about where you’re at. (In keeping Betancourt) you know you’ve made serious progress as a championship-caliber team."

Tony La Russa says he prefers having Brad Penny on his side.
Tony La Russa says he prefers having Brad Penny on his side.

Cardinals
Any team with Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright has a chance to beat the best. Add righthanded starter Brad Penny, whom pitching guru Dave Duncan has long admired, and that chance improves. By signing Penny, the Cardinals added proven depth to an already formidable rotation.

Manager Tony La Russa says: "Whenever a guy faces you and you’re not happy, you always think, Boy, it would be nice to get him on your side. (Penny is) a guy that we thought would be a real good starter for our side."

Braves
Even after trading righthander Javier Vazquez for center fielder Melky Carbrera, Atlanta’s rotation is deeper than Philadelphia’s. The Braves covet an impact bat, but they scored more runs than the Phillies after the All-Star break last season. Signing Billy Wagner was risky, but Atlanta is convinced he will provide a late-inning upgrade.

Manager Bobby Cox says: "We spent a lot of time with Billy, and he’s excited to do this. (G.M.) Frank (Wren) had the scouts on him when he went to Boston; they had all glowing reports."

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

This story first appeared in the January 4 edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets.

The Phillies can become the first National League team to reach three consecutive World Series since the Cardinals in 1942-44. The defending NL champions made the offseason’s biggest move by trading for righthander Roy Halladay, but two of the three teams with the best chance of unseating Philadelphia in the NL haven’t changed much.

A look at three threats to the Phillies, with analysis from each team’s manager:

Rockies
Last season, no NL club won more after May, and Colorado is likely to get better. The Rockies’ lineup is intact, and lefthanded starter Jeff Francis is healthy after a lost season (shoulder surgery). The club accomplished its No. 1 offseason goal by retaining setup man Rafael Betancourt, whose return assures a deep bullpen with defined roles.

Manager Jim Tracy says: "Depthwise, you feel really, really good about where you’re at. (In keeping Betancourt) you know you’ve made serious progress as a championship-caliber team."

Tony La Russa says he prefers having Brad Penny on his side.
Tony La Russa says he prefers having Brad Penny on his side.

Cardinals
Any team with Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright has a chance to beat the best. Add righthanded starter Brad Penny, whom pitching guru Dave Duncan has long admired, and that chance improves. By signing Penny, the Cardinals added proven depth to an already formidable rotation.

Manager Tony La Russa says: "Whenever a guy faces you and you’re not happy, you always think, Boy, it would be nice to get him on your side. (Penny is) a guy that we thought would be a real good starter for our side."

Braves
Even after trading righthander Javier Vazquez for center fielder Melky Carbrera, Atlanta’s rotation is deeper than Philadelphia’s. The Braves covet an impact bat, but they scored more runs than the Phillies after the All-Star break last season. Signing Billy Wagner was risky, but Atlanta is convinced he will provide a late-inning upgrade.

Manager Bobby Cox says: "We spent a lot of time with Billy, and he’s excited to do this. (G.M.) Frank (Wren) had the scouts on him when he went to Boston; they had all glowing reports."

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

This story first appeared in the January 4 edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets.

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