That's a real headline. Now wait a second, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum says. Simply because his team's video assistant, and not another actual player, reached the final of the Cubs' 64-person bunting tournament Sunday, it doesn't mean the team should be embarrassed. I mean, a guy in the Cubs front office named Nate Halm should be just as skilled of a bunter as anyone invited to play at spring training!
That was how Sveum tried to spin it for Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune:
“Oh, c’mon,” Sveum protested. “Oh, we’re really worried about that ... He’s a professional player. He played overseas, and in college.”
Do you buy it? It's true about Halm, who played at Miami of Ohio and in 2008 was a teammate of Adam Eaton, the young outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks. And he played professionally in Munich, the Cubs say. (Apparently in Germany, there exists a hunger for baseball— a "hunger für baseball," it's called.)
To reach the final, Halm beat pitcher Edwin Jackson before falling to David DeJesus — losing a reported $3,400 in prize money and sparing the Cubs some embarrassment. Some. Hey, it's the Cubs own fault for putting non-players in the tournament, the only upside of which is ... well ... is there one?
DeJesus can lay it down, also having won the inaugural bunting tournament in 2012. This year's event seemed a little bigger, as it was spread out over several days and had brackets and pods — whatever — just like the NCAA basketball tournament. Halm was a last-second replacement and won a 16-man bracket that included team president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer.
How does a bunting contest work, anyway? By the looks of the photo Cubs Vineline took, it's apparently like shuffleboard. How does shuffleboard work? I don't know, I've never been on a cruise ship.
Hey, with sabermatrician-on-the-side Sam Fuld long gone from the Cubs and people's champion Tony Campana freshly traded, are we sure Halm shouldn't be on the field full time? The Cubs should have more skills contests and find out what else he's got before sending him back the video room to splice together upcoming opponents.
Having a bunting tournament at all is a little dubious. Bunting can help a team win, but most clubs probably use the tactic too often and at the wrong times. (See the World Baseball Classic game between the U.S. and Canada.) As Earl Weaver would say, just wait for the three-run homer, catch the ball on defense and everything will be OK.
A three-run homer contest. Now that's something the Cubs should look into.