01/01/08 10:00 AM ET
Knoblauch gets first crack at Hall
Former second baseman spent bulk of his career in Minnesota
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
Knoblauch had some great individual seasons during his seven-year stint in Minnesota, including '97, when he set the Twins' single-season record for most stolen bases (62). The 140 runs he scored in '96 are also a club record."He had the type of ability where you could hit him up at the top of the lineup and he's going to score a lot of runs," Ryan said. "He's going to take walks. He was a threat with the bat. He had a lot of those great attributes. Chuck was just a winning player." Ryan and Knoblauch have been forever linked, considering that it was the former Twins GM who orchestrated the deal which sent the cornerstone player to the Yankees in 1998 for four players and $3 million. It was a trade that Knoblauch had requested just one year into a five-year contract, having grown a tad frustrated with losing in Minnesota. The move didn't gain Knoblauch much accord with Twins fans, but it led to greater team success. Knoblauch would go on to win three straight World Series with the Yankees in 1998, '99 and 2000. That included a solid first season when he hit a career-high 17 home runs, as the Yankees won a then-AL record 114 games in '98. But it was during that span of time that his trademark defense began to slip. The once-failproof arm of the second baseman disappeared, as Knoblauch began having trouble making the routine throw to first base. In 2000, after two seasons with the Yankees and numerous throwing errors, Knoblauch began seeing more time at the designated-hitter position. He was eventually moved to left field before leaving the Yankees after the '01 season. Knoblauch then spent one year in Kansas City in '02, and it was after that season that he called it a career. Besides the decline he endured in his final few seasons, Knoblauch's candidacy took another hit when his name was included in the Mitchell Report. According to interviews in the Report with former Yankees assistant strength coach Brian McNamee, Knoblauch used human growth hormone in 2001. McNamee said that he injected Knoblauch at least seven to nine times that year. But while the focus currently is on what Knoblauch may or may not have done late in his career, those like Gardenhire and Ryan choose to focus on the player they knew during his time in Minnesota. "He really played the game the right way," Gardenhire said. "I always respected that of him and liked that about him. He came to play every day and he played the game hard."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.