There is one simple reason why the Boston Red Sox are 31-14 and comfortably nestled atop the American League East, and the New York Yankees as 20-24 and 10.5 games behind. The Red Sox are a team, and the Yankees are a collection of players. It also helps that Boston has three pitchers - Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka - who can be counted upon to deliver a clutch start to end a losing streak while the Yankees only have one in Andy Pettitte.
The Sox do not lack superstars with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in the lineup. And Matsuzaka definitely draws a crowd. Most of this team, though, is composed of "professional" players who know their roles - guys like Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, Coco Crisp and reserves such as Alex Cora and Eric Hinske. Jonathan Papelbon is developing into a superstar since he is the most dominant closer in the game, but even the bullpen is loaded with gritty relievers who fill a role like Hideki Okajima, Javier Lopez, Kyle Snyder and Brendan Donnelly.
I found it amusing when Johnny Damon told the media how excited he was to be joining a Yankees lineup filled with All-Stars. A team that looks great on paper doesn't necessarily lead to success on the field. The underachieving Yankees are proof of that. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are three of the best players in the game offensively at their position. Jason Giambi was once a great player, as was Bobby Abreu and Damon. Robinson Cano is capable of winning multiple batting titles, and Hideki Matsui is steady. Yet, for some reason, these guys do not mesh well as a team. The Yankees will not seriously contend for a World Series title until A-Rod opts out of his contract, Giambi is dumped, Abreu and Damon leave, and Brian Cashman (if he remains with the team) rebuilds the rotation. Only Chien-Ming Wang (who is not as effective as he was last season) and Philip Hughes (who looks like a future ace, but not this year) look like long-term fixtures in the rotation.