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Monday (Five Twins thoughts at the break) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Professional baseball, Target Field Updated: July 11, 2011 - 9:29 AM

As the Twins (except for Michael Cuddyer) prepare to escape our brains for a few days, here are five things we are thinking about after a wild and strange first half of the season:

1) The Twins have at least positioned themselves to be buyers at the trading deadline. They have 12 home games in a row coming out of the break, including 8 combined with the teams at the top of the AL Central (Cleveland and Detroit). That said, if the Twins are going to sell, we envision them doing the kind of swap they made in 2001, when they shipped Matt Lawton out and got Rick Reed back at the deadline. That is to say, trading an established MLB veteran from a position of perceived depth for another veteran in a position of need. We would guess that trade would involve an outfielder considering things are going to get mighty crowded when Denard Span, Delmon Young and Jason Kubel are healthy again. Any of those three, for various reasons, could be dispatched for one more reliable bullpen arm, potentially setting up the Twins for a very nice back half of the 'pen.

2) If you wrote off Tsuyoshi Nishioka too early, you made a mistake. It looks like he's getting more comfortable every game. He's hardly been perfect at shortstop and lacks a great arm, but he and Alexi Casilla have brought stability to that middle infield carousel. Nishioka was also 7 for his last 17 with three walks and five runs scored in his final five games heading into the break.

3) We remain fundamentally confounded and conflicted by the 17-37 start to the season. Yes, there were a ton of injuries -- but the Twins actually started this road to recovery while they were MORE injured than they were early on. Ron Gardenhire has certainly pushed the right buttons to get them out of the funk and back to the brink of an actual division race. But a free pass for that disastrous first third of the season is not in order yet.

4) The Twins have eerily followed through on the blueprint for respectability we laid out a little over a month ago (one game was rained out between then and now, accounting for the extra game we had factored into their record): It is not crazy to think the Twins could be, say, 7 or 8 games back at the break if they could go, say 18-11 over their next 29 games (19 of which will be played at Target Field). That would put them at 41-49. The 20023 Twins were 44-49 at the break, 7.5 games behind the leader. They won their first five games at home coming out of it, and ended up winning 90 to take a weak division.

5) If you're the kind of person who says, "What does it matter if they win their division ... they'll just lose to the Yankees in the playoffs anyway," well you're probably a moron. While the standard should be higher than winning a division, and you might quibble about whether the Twins are constructed to go deep in the playoffs should they make it there, winning a division title -- even in a weak AL Central -- is an accomplishment that means something and at least gives a team a chance to make some postseason noise. Don't bemoan future postseason failure. Don't call for your favorite NBA or NFL team to start losing 25 percent of the way into the season so they get better draft picks. Enjoy the process, the chase and the season.

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