The Yankees early exit from the playoffs is yet another example of the need for role players on a team. Championship teams always have them, the athletes who make sacrifices, who play well in the clutch, taking pressure off a squad. The recent travails of the Washington Redskins are a good example of a team who tries to stack itself with superstars, never taking into account the secondary players' role. Ditto the United States' Ryder Cup team, and the American men's basketball team. While the media portray role players as blue collar guys who just stumbled off a construction site to help the hometown team win a championship, role players are usually great athletes in their own right (see Jerome Bettis, in Super Bowl XL, and John Elway, arguably a role player in both his Super Bowl wins), who understand the importance of forfeiting personal glory.
The role of the role player has actually been quantified in a study, entitled "NBA Salaries: Role Players and Superstars,"
by Marshall University's economist Jacqueline Agesa. The study, published in The Sport Journal, notes that there are "...greater returns to human capital accumulation for intermediate level, role players (occurring in the middle of the earnings distribution) relative to low-skill players and superstars." In other words, it's important to think about team chemistry when constructing a team.