What goes up

On the North Side of Chicago, they're feeling pretty good about the way things are going - and that's understandable.

When the Cubs took a doubleheader from the Braves in Atlanta on Wednesday, it put Chicago at 26 games over .500, which hadn't happened in a quarter of a century. And the Cubs are setting the pace in the National League Central with the Milwaukee Brewers trailing.


The Cubs' recent surge had shouting out this headline yesterday: "Catch Them If You Can."

Well, enthusiasm over the Cubs is one thing, but tempting fate is another.


So at this point, I think it's prudent to remind everyone that these are the Cubs we're talking about, and a look back at 1969 is instructive.

On Aug. 16, 1969, those ill-fated Cubs of Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams essentially hit their high watermark for the season when Ferguson Jenkins shut out the San Francisco Giants and Gaylord Perry, 3-0.

At that moment, the first-place Cubs were 75-44 and had a nine-game lead in the NL East (their record improved slightly a few days later, but they never led by as many games).

Then, of course, the bottom fell out. They finished the rest of August by going 8-10 and then went 9-19 in September and October. Of course, the Amazin' Mets had a 23-7 September run and rocketed past the Cubs on their way to a World Series championship over the Orioles.

So, almost to the day, the 1969 Cubs and the 2008 Cubs reached what seemed to be pinnacles. We know what happened in 1969, and while I'm not predicting a similarly gloomy outcome for this year's Cubs - well, I'm just saying, you know.

Replay is the right way

Major League Baseball is moving inexorably toward instant replay, as commissioner Bud Selig says the means to help umpires decide home runs is almost ready. Soon, baseball could join other major sports leagues in using the unblinking eye of the camera, as well as technology that slows down the action and gives a variety of angles, to determine fair or foul, over or not.

The more common issues of safe or out and ball or strike are not part of the instant-replay plan.


Baseball parks are being wired, and a central monitoring room is being readied in New York, similar to the NHL's operation in Toronto where goals are reviewed.

While the human element is what gives sport its drama, human error can often detract from it. As the Olympics unfold, imagine trying to determine who won a swimming competition without the electronics that can differentiate between hundredths of a second.

Baseball has been resistant in bending to the convenience and relative certainty of technology in determining the outcomes of its game. Perhaps, as the game most steeped in tradition, that old-guard reluctance has been admirable at times.

However, this careful move into the 21st century is due.