Anybody who pays attention to the national pastime is aware that when the Boston Red Sox won the first of their three recent World Series in 2004 (they also won in 2007 and 2013), they had not won a World Series since 1918 -- a period of 86 seasons.
As we all know, two of those Red Sox teams (2004 and 2007) had a general manager named Theo Epstein. He originally took over in 2002, as the youngest general manager in the history of the game at 28 years old.
Deservedly so, Epstein was given much of the credit for putting those two teams together. In fact, after briefly resigning after the 2005 season, he came back in early January 2006 when he received the added title of executive vice president of baseball operations.
But as the post-2007 Red Sox reality flattened out, and, perhaps, as he got tired of working under his original mentor, then-Red Sox president and part owner Larry Lucchino, Epstein resigned his post with the Red Sox in 2011. Shortly thereafter, he became president of the Chicago Cubs.
In taking the job with the Cubs, Epstein was embarking on his second World Series drought, or curse, depending on how you look at the facts. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 -- a period of 108 years. In other words, this makes the Red Sox's World Series drought look like child's play.
So isn't it a delicious irony that, perhaps, Epstein's former team, the Boston Red Sox, are rapidly becoming the most dangerous team the Cubs will have to cross to end their 100-plus years World Series drought?
Every team that hopes to win a ring has to start off with a minimum of two scintillating starting pitchers. While three makes you a real serious candidate, there is no question Boston lefty David Price and right-hander Rick Porcello fit the bill. Price has certainly had a rocky road during his first season with the Red Sox, but he has pitched to an 3.04 ERA over his last 103.1 innings, dating back to the beginning of July.
Porcello's exploits are well known in these parts, as he just won his 21st game of the season Sept. 19 and has suffered just four loses. Where the Red Sox seem to fail in a potential matchup with the Cubs is when it comes to a strong No. 3 and No. 4 starter.
Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright ran his record to 13-5 with a shutout Aug. 5. However, he started two more games, Aug. 26 and Aug. 31 after returning from the disabled list for shoulder bursitis, and in those two starts, Wright allowed nine earned runs in 10 innings, with 14 hits and six walks. While he is not on the DL, he is not likely to pitch again this season.
To date, trade deadline pick-up left-hander Drew Pomeranz has been a disappointment, as has 23-year-old lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and one-time big-time righty Clay Buchholz.
Two other interesting aspects of a potential Cubs-Red Sox matchup is the fact Cubs left-hander Jon Lester would face his former team. Lester is pitching some of his best baseball, but if there is one team that knows what they'll face in Lester, it's his old team.
The other intriguing scenario is that the World Series would be the final games of Boston slugger David Ortiz. How manager John Farrell uses Ortiz could be interesting. Might he put Hanley Ramirez back at third base to allow Ortiz to play every game? Or will he try and count on a couple pinch-hitting spots in games three, four and five? In case you were wondering, the American League won the All-Star game in San Diego and will host games one, two, six and seven.
But it still sure seems fitting Epstein may have to get by the monster he helped build not so long ago.
1. Chicago Cubs (95-55 overall record, No. 1 ranking last week) -- In an anointed season, the pressure is building on the Cubs.
2. Washington Nationals (88-62, No. 2) -- The Nationals are still hanging high, but without right-hander Stephen Strasburg on the mound, and right fielder Bryce Harper having a down season, it looks as if they can't measure up.
3. Boston Red Sox (86-64, No. 5) -- The Red Sox have gone 22-12 in last 34 games, which has propelled them to the top of the AL East by four games.
4. Texas Rangers (89-62, No. 3) -- The Rangers are still a dangerous team, but Boston's starting pitching duo of Price-Porcello is slightly better than Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.
5. Cleveland Indians (86-63, No. 4) -- In their last 14 games against winning teams, Cleveland has gone 7-7, and then against teams with records below .500, they have gone 11-4. That's how you hold serve.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers (85-65, No. 6) -- Things are looking very good with left-hander Clayton Kershaw's comeback from a herniated disc. Right-hander Kenta Maeda, a MLB Rookie from Japan, is a 15-game winner and has struck out 164 batters in 165 innings. But get a load of lefty Rich Hill's numbers: Over his last 15 games, he has an 11-2 record with a 1.75 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP in 87.1 innings pitched. Hill has struck out 99 batters and walked just 26. And the Dodgers still have starting pitchers Alex Wood, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu on the DL in various levels of rehab, but they could all give manager Dave Roberts as many options as possible come postseason play.
7. Baltimore Orioles (82-68, No. 7) -- Just when you think you can count them out, they rally. Just when you think you can count them in, they swoon. Usually that is related to how the starting pitching does.
8. Toronto Blue Jays (82-68, No. 8) -- Three weeks ago, they looked practically unbeatable in AL East and a serious World Series contender. That was before a 7-12 stretch that has everyone scratching their heads.
9. New York Mets (80-70, No. 10) -- A 20-7 run has moved them from the outside looking in, to taking over as the No. 1 Wild Card team in National League. The Mets have a lot of new faces to place on the national stage.
10. St. Louis Cardinals (79-71, No. 12) -- It's a real coin-toss between the Cardinals and the Giants, but I was impressed Mike Matheny's team traveled to AT&T Park and bested the Giants 2-1 on the road.
11. San Francisco Giants (79-71, No. 9)
12. Seattle Mariners (79-71, No. 13)
13. Houston Astros (79-71, No. 14)
14. Detroit Tigers (79-70, No. 11)
15. Pittsburgh Pirates (74-75, No. 18)
16. Miami Marlins (75-75, No. 17)
17. Kansas City Royals (77-73, No. 15)
18. New York Yankees (77-72, No. 16)
19. Colorado Rockies (72-78, No. 19)
20. Chicago White Sox (72-78, No. 20)
21. Tampa Bay Rays (64-85, No. 24)
22. Philadelphia (67-83, No. 21)
23. Milwaukee Brewers (68-82, No. 22)
24. Oakland Athletics (66-84, No. 26)
25. Los Angles Angels of Anaheim (65-85, No. 23)
26. Cincinnati Reds (63-87, No. 25)
27. Arizona Diamondbacks (63-87, No. 28)
28. San Diego Padres (63-87, No. 27)
29. Atlanta Braves (59-91, No. 29)
30. Minnesota Twins (55-95, No. 30)