This Day in Twins History – February 6, 1998

The Twins trade their 1991 Rookie of the Year and four-time All-Star 2B Edward Charles “Chuck” Knoblauch to the New York Yankees and in turn receive pitchers Eric Milton and Danny Mota along with shortstop Cristian Guzman and outfielder Brian Buchanan and $3 million in cash.

Chuck had first been drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 18th round of the 1986 amateur free agent draft but chose not to sign primarily because his father felt that he was not ready for pro ball so Chuck went on to play for Texas A&M. The Minnesota Twins selected Knoblauch with their first pick (25th overall) in the 1989 amateur free agent draft and four days later Knoblauch signed his first professional contract. After signing with the Twins, the 5’9″ and 175 pound Knoblauch played A ball in Kenosha and Visalia and then in 1990 he moved up to AA ball Orlando under manager Ron Gardenhire. Knobby won the Twins starting 2B job coming out of spring training in 1991 and his big league career was underway. Knoblauch, a right-handed hitter played in 151 games during the 1991 World Championship season hitting .281 while scoring 78 runs and stealing 25 of 30 bases. Knoblauch won the ROY award going away garnering 26 of 28 first place votes. As time went by in Minnesota and the Twins teams struggled, Knoblauch became more aloof and distant from the fans and was known as a difficult autograph to get. In June of 1995 things got ugly in Seattle when Knoblauch was walking toward the team hotel when a 15-year-old boy asked him for an autograph. Knoblauch ignored him. Just as Knoblauch reached the door, the kid yelled, “Knoblauch, you suck!” Knoblauch spun around, backed the kid against a wall and cursed him out. The cops were called. The kid said Knoblauch had torn his shirt and scratched his neck. Knoblauch said he hadn’t laid a hand on the kid. No charges were pressed.

In August 1996 in August, Knoblauch passed up free agency by agreeing to a five-year contract extension. According to a March 1998 Sports Illustrated story, “Frustration had turned Chuck into a zombie.” Lisa Knoblauch is describing her husband’s Season of the Living Dead with the 1997 Minnesota Twins. “He was sad, desolate, miserable. He felt stuck in a five-year contract with a team that was sure to get worse. Requesting a trade seemed the only way out.” During this same time period, Knoblauch’s father (Ray) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was quickly losing his battle with the dreadful disease. The Twins and the Yankees agreed on a deal and the trade was made, Knoblauch was a New York Yankee but only after a supposed deal with the Cleveland Indians for pitchers Chad Ogea and Steve Karsay and infielder Enrique Wilson was turned down by Minnesota.

The same I article goes on to say “According to a reporter who covers the team, “Knoblauch whined and whined about wanting a long-term deal. So the team finally commits to him for five years at $30 million, and his commitment to the team lasts barely a year.” One member of the club’s front office says, “During the seven years Knoblauch was in Minnesota, he evolved into a bratty tyrant who ran roughshod over the people around him. Hardly anyone–from his teammates to the clubhouse kids to the valets who park the players’ cars—was unhappy to see him leave.”

Knoblauch played in New York from 1998-2001 and the team went to the World Series each year he was there, winning 3 and losing to Arizona in 2001. But Chuck’s time as a Yankee was not all peaches and cream as he started to develop a throwing issue and as time went by, his throws to first base from 2B grew progressively problematic. In 1999 Chuck committed 26 errors at 2B and slowly the Yankees started to use him more and more as a DH and in the outfield. Knoblauch played just 82 games at 2B for the Yankees in 2000 and that was the last time that Chuck played 2B in the big leagues. After the 2001 season Knoblauch left the Yankees through free agency and signed with the Kansas City Royals but hit only .210 in 80 games and the once promising career was over.

Chuck Knoblauch was named in the Mitchell Report and later appeared before a Congressional Committee to give testimony. He admitted using human growth hormone in 2001. A full text of that report can be seen here. In September of 2009, Chuck Knoblauch surrendered to authorities in Harris County, Tex., after he was charged with assaulting his common-law wife. Knoblauch entered a guilty plea in exchange for deferred-adjudication probation. Chuck Knoblauch is now doing motivation speaking through AthletePromotions.com. There is a nice piece written by Classic Minnesota Twins about the May 2, 2001 “Dollar Dog Rebellion” when Knoblauch and the Yankees were at the Metrodome that you will enjoy raeding.

Eric Milton

The left-handed starting pitcher Eric Milton who was the Yankees number one pick (20th overall) in the 1996 amateur free agent draft was the supposed plum in the Knoblauch trade. Although the big lefty (6’3″ and 210 pounds) pitched for Minnesota from 1998-2003 starting 165 games and putting up a 57-51 won/lost record, he never attained the super star status that many expected of him.  Milton struck out 13 and no-hit (5th no-hitter in Twins history) the Anaheim Angels 7-0 at the Metrodome on September 11, 1999 but even then he was critized because it was an early Saturday morning game due to an up-coming Minnesota Gopher football game at the Dome later in the day and many of the Angels regulars sat out the game. In his six seasons in Minnesota, Milton struck out 715 in 987 innings with a 4.76 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. The Twins traded their one time All-Star pitcher to the Philadelphia Phillies on December 3, 2003 for pitcher Carlos Silva, infielder Nick Punto, and a PTBNL who turned out to be pitcher Bobby Korecky.

Cristian Guzman

The switch-hitting shortstop Cristian Guzman played for the Twins from 1999 through the 2004 season before leaving as a free agent. The speedy Guzman led the league in triples in 2000, 2001, and 2003 and was named to the All-Star team in 2001. Guzman wasn’t a bad shortstop but for some reason he just was not given a lot of love by either the fans or the team. You can view a Twins commercial with Cristian Guzman in their 2001 “Get to Know’em” campaign here.

 

 

Brian Buchanan

The big (6’4″ and 230 pounds) right-handed hitting outfielder Brian Buchanan did not turn out to be the bigger slugger that the Twins had hoped they had acquired and “Buck’s” stay in Minnesota only lasted from 2000-2002 for a total of 143 games. In those 143 games, Buchanan hit .258 with 16 home runs but it was his 113 strikeouts in 414 at bats that kept Buchanan from becoming a regular outfielder. The Twins sent Brain to the San Diego Padres for shortstop Jason Bartlett on July 12, 2002. Buchanan is the son-in-law of former Boston Celtic great John Havlicek.

Danny Mota was a right-handed pitcher but his stay in Minnesota was very brief, Mota pitched in four games for the Twins in 2000 and that turned out to be his entire major league career. The Dominican born Mota appeared in 4 games throwing 5.1 innings allowing 10 hits and 5 runs and ending his big league career with a 8.44 ERA. I am not sure much else needs to be said about Mr. Mota.

Last April the Platoon Advantage did a piece on Chuck Knoblauch and his “Twins Family Tree” that I have copied here because I think it is kind of cool. Danny Mota’s Twins contribution is left out and of course Delmon Young has since been traded but never the less these kinds of family tree charts are fun and interesting to look at. It teaches us to look past the original trade and what it brings to the ballclub.

 

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