But we know this: Anyone who attended games during the Twins/Tigers series at Target Field barely a week before the non-waiver trade deadline did not walk away with the conclusion that the Twins would be making their traditional charge up the AL Central standings this year. The Tigers have the pitching edge and the hitting edge. On particular days, the edge is quite dramatic. Not only that, but the Twins -- even at that time -- were dealing with Cleveland and Chicago ahead of them. Leaping three teams in roughly 65 games is not an easy task, even for a team with a nice second-half history.
Still, the Twins remained pesky enough that Smith offered this as the deadline loomed: "The main question you have to ask yourself is, are you in contention? We fought back from a long way down, and we are in contention. We've got a chance to win our division again, and we're looking forward to the coming two months."
Even last week, it seemed wildly optimistic. The objective observer would have looked at the Twins and concluded that they should have either 1) Shed payroll and sell, sell, sell at the deadline to bolster the farm system or 2) Perhaps a more palatable solution that wouldn't have upset the ticket buyers, been both buyers and sellers by trading Major League players at crowded positions (outfield) for positions of need (middle infield, relief pitching).
The hot rumor was Denard Span to Washington for reliever Drew Storen and others. We're not sure that was a great deal or the right player to try to ship out, but it was the correct idea -- surplus for need.
When that deal and anything else fell through, Smith offered this: "I think the worst thing we could do is panic and start making deals because somebody else started making deals. As much as we wanted to improve this club, I'd rather make no deal than a bad deal."
That is true. And we also don't blame Smith for the fact that virtually every offensive player on the team is performing below expectations this year because of injury, general ineffectiveness or both. There is a large amount of bad luck and unforeseen stuff going on with these 2011 Twins.
But we really have to wonder if there were no deals to be made, or if the good deals (Michael Cuddyer and/or Jason Kubel) just couldn't be choked down by Smith because they would be deemed unpopular in the short-term. There is still a chance, albeit a tougher one, to make a swap in August during the waiver trade period. As it stands now, the Twins are 8 games out of first, 9 games below .500 (and would be 45-64 if their season had played out according to their run differential). Their next 18 games area against the Angels, White Sox, Red Sox, Indians, Tigers and Yankees. They sure seem like sellers to us, but the time to sell might have passed.