Every Yankees' fan will agree: There is no team you love to hate more than the Boston Red Sox. For years, they were just an annoying little brother, but now it seems they have surpassed the Bombers, as they have been much more productive over the past few years.
From the epic finishes to the intense brawls, this is surely sports' most heated rivalry. Currently, the Yankees lead the series 1,119 to 940. But as of late, the Yanks have had their struggles against Boston.
So, as much as I can't stand the Bo-Sox, I have decided give them a little credit.
We start with their pitching, which is one of the strongest rotations in baseball.
First, there is the ace, Josh Beckett. The former World Series MVP has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the league, with a record of 11-3. His incredible production earned him a spot in this year's All-Star Game, which is his second All-Star selection.
Next in the rotation is Jon Lester. He is best known for throwing a no-hitter in 2008, just two years after his recovery from cancer. This year, Lester is 8-7, although his record doesn't reflect his true talent. While he is not doing as well this year as in years past, he has great potential and a strong arm.
Then there's Tim Wakefield, one of the older players in the MLB. It may be a surprise that this year, at age 42, Wakefield made made his first All-Star appearance. He is known for his signature knuckleball, a pitch opposing batters have been struggling to hit this year, which is made apparent by Wakefield's 11-3 record.
Fourth in the rotation is Brad Penny. In his first year with the Sox, Penny has gone 6-4. He is a fairly consistent pitcher who provides stability to a line-up with plenty of fire power.
Finally, there is future-Hall-of-Famer and long time Major League veteran, John Smoltz. Smoltz brings wisdom and experience to Boston's rotation, something that is always good to have. After coming out of retirement during the season and starting off 1-2, it will be interesting to see how Smoltz will come back.
Also, it should be noted that Daisuke Matsuzaka began the year 1-5. A shoulder injury has kept him on the DL ever since.
In the bullpen, the Sox have the electrifying closer Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon is 24 for 26 on save attempts this year, and is 1-1 as a starter.
Their top reliever is Hideki Okajima, who has a 3.23 ERA and a 3-0 record in '09.
This pitching staff is enough to make any New York fan cringe.
Now we go to the players in the field.
Behind the plate for Boston is Jason Varitek. He is at his best on defense, where he has won three Golden Glove Awards at the catcher position. The three-time All-Star has 13 home runs and 38 RBI in 2009. Over the years, Varitek has been a staple in the Red Sox' success.
George Kottaras also plays catcher, only starting when Tim Wakefield is pitching.
At first base, Kevin Youkilis is usually the starter. So far, he has 17 long balls and 57 RBI. He is one of the leaders of this club, and was one of the top players during their championship season. He is a two-time All-Star, one-time Golden Glove Award winner, and is also capable of playing third base.
Next we have Dustin Pedroia, who is the second baseman for the Sox. He has 112 hits and a .304 batting average this season, making him one of the league's more consistent batters.
He has a bright future ahead of him, and he has already won many awards: AL MVP, Rookie of the Year, two All-Star selections, a Golden Glove, and a Silver Slugger Award.
Then there's Mike Lowell, who resides in the hot corner at Fenway Park. The third baseman has cleared the fence 10 times in '09, as well as racking up 42 RBI and 81 hits.
The long-time veteran has won an assortment of awards throughout his career, including being selected as an All-Star four times, winning two World Series (in one of which he was the MVP), as well as a Golden Glove and a Silver Slugger.
One of the bigger unknowns of the team is shortstop Jed Lowrie. Jed was injured most of the year and has just come back recently. He is very young, with this being only his second year in the Majors. He is a very talented defender, and is coming around as a hitter.
Behind him in left field is Jason Bay. He has a whopping 20 homers, 72 RBI, and 83 hits. He has a reputation for being able to get on base and produce runs. He is also solid in the field, and because of his strong all-around play, he has three All-Star selections and captured the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2004.
Out in center is Jacoby Ellsbury, who is another fantastic young talent. Ellsbury already has 100 hits this year, and has maintained a steady batting average of .287. He has an incredibly strong arm, plays great defense, is a magnificent base runner, and comes up big in the postseason.
In right field is J.D. Drew, a veteran who's been in the league for years. In 2009, he has posted 66 base hits, 38 RBI, and 12 home runs. In 1997, he won the Dick Howser Award, which is thought of as college baseball's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
Last year, he made his first All-Star game appearance, a game in which he was selected as MVP. He is also one of the league's better defenders.
Finally, there is the designated hitter, David Ortiz. Big Papi has left the yard 301 times in his illustrious career, while adding 1,020 RBIs and 1,401 hits. This year he has 12 home runs, 51 runs batted in, and 72 total hits.
When he plays in NL parks, he is a first baseman. Over his career, he has captured various awards and led the league in a couple different categories.
This group of guys have been giving Yankees' supporters fits all season long. Some of them have been doing this for years.
There are also plenty of capable backups on Boston's roster. Here's a breakdown of the Sox' second-stringers by position:
Catcher: George Kottaras; first base: Adam LaRoche; second base and shortstop: Nick Green; third base: Kevin Youkilis; all three slots in the outfield: Rocco Baldelli.
Terry Francona has been a great manager for Boston, as he led the team to World Series victories in 2004 and 2007.
It should be noted that some of the statistics have changed since I first began this article. Also, since I wrote the section on Wakefield, he has gotten injured and has been replaced by the 1-1 Clay Buchholz until his recovery.
As a Yankees fan, it is difficult to admit that the Red Sox have had our number over the past few years. But this is exactly how it has been, although the Yanks have clearly been better historically.
The Yankees are 0-8 against the Sox in 2009, as of July 24. But right now, the Bombers are riding an eight-game winning-streak.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox are in a slump, having lost five consecutive games until they finally beat the Orioles on Friday.
The Yankees are unbeaten since the All-Star break and are now have sole possession of the American League East. They are 59-37 as of July 24.
On the other hand, Boston is 2.5 games back with a record of 56-39. The Sox currently have a comfortable seven-game lead over the second-place White Sox in the Wild Card race.
The Rays are also hanging around, as they are 6.5 games back of New York and have proven themselves to be divisional contenders.
With the Bomber's resurgent performance, it looks like Yankees fans across the country can be confident that their team has a great shot at making the playoffs. But Boston is loaded and can catch up at any time. Never count the Red Sox out of a race, especially one this close.
This one looks like it will be exciting and go down to the wire, as both teams will give each other a run for their money.