I hope the Yankees make it to the ALCS so this is even a concern...
I'll admit a small amount of joy seeing the Sox collapse, but a late season fall isn't really new (Dodgers '51, BoSox '78, Mets '07 & '08). Honestly, since 2004, I've paid far less attention to how the Red Sox are doing- I only care who the Yankees will play. The Rays are a great team with phenomenal starting pitching and a decent offense. The Red Sox are a great team with decent starting pitching and a phenomenal offense. Either team might beat the Yankees in a best of 7 series.
To take a small tangent, I hope this fantastic final week kills the talk of adding a playoff team. In the "wild card play-in" scenario that MLB has kicked around, this week would have been drama-less as the Sox and Rays lined up their pitching and rested their starters for a short series.
Who did you really hope the Yankees would meet in the playoffs? (Note: Your answer cannot be "the Twins.")
Sort of related to the theme of my last answer, I've stopped wishing. If the Yankees make it to the World Series, I'm going to be happy regardless of who they play through.
I think the hardest road would probably be Tigers-Rays-Phillies, so I suppose my wish would be Tigers-Rangers (so long as AJ Burnett doesn't pitching)-Diamondbacks. A matchup with the Diamondbacks would be especially rewarding because it might finally give me some closure from 2001, and because it would give me a chance to see Ian Kennedy (who we sent to Arizona for Granderson) pitch in the World Series, something I thought I'd see him do in pinstripes.
The Yankees' pitching staff is much-maligned in the press, but their ERA doesn't look too bad to me (3.73). What's the rotation order going to be, and are they better than they're given credit for?
The rotation will be CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia. I suspect that Girardi won't announce a 4th starter until he's sure he'll need one. In theory, Sabathia could pitch game 4 on 4 days rest, and the go back to Nova and all-hands-on-deck for Game 5.
Are the Yankee starters better than they are given credit for? Sabathia has been an ace. Nova has had a fantastic rookie year and pounds the strike zone. Freddy Garcia throws more off speed pitches than fastballs, but so long as he has his command he's a great pitcher. Bartolo Colon has struggled through September, but has been fantastic most of the year. AJ Burnett, like Colon, faded in August after a strong first half.
The Yankees have the arms to dominate the series, but after Sabathia there are no sure things (and there are plenty of people who look at how Sabathia struggled in the postseason for the Brewers and Indians pitching throughout September on 3 days rest, who will tell you Sabathia is not a sure thing either; I think those people are idiots).
New York is a team with a lot of stars, obviously. But what under-the-radar player do the Yankees need to have perform well this series?
As a die-hard Yankee fan, I have to stop and consider what you mean by under-the-radar. Number 2 and 3 starters Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia have the potential to shut down the Tigers (not that I'm banking on it, but a guy can dream). Brett Gardner's defense and patience at the plate could make him a hero. The bullpen, to me, is one long string of "could be a hero, could be a goat"- so David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan.
Are you taking good care of Curtis Granderson for us? Sure, we're happy with the way the trade turned out, but we miss him. By the way, which brand of magic pixie dust did the Yankees purchase to finally get him to hit against lefties?
We are taking very good care of our 2011 team MVP. The magic pixie dust is the "Keep Both Hands on the Bat" brand, sold by the Kevin Long Hitting Coach Company. He holds his head much stiller than he used to, and by keeping both hands on the bat during his follow through he's able to generate power on pitches away, where before he could only pop them up. With all 3 trade partners in the postseason in large part because of the players exchanged, that trade will have to go down as one of the best (most even) trades in baseball history.
As an aside, I've really enjoyed the Tigers games I've gotten to see this season- I've seen a great, pitching first brand of baseball. I'm looking forward to tense, close games (games I hope the Yankees win).
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, and Happy October!