May 11, 2001
About 10 days ago, Yankee second baseman/left fielder/Sergeant York impersonator Chuck Knoblauch was greeted rudely by Twins fans sitting in the left-field bleachers. Knoblauch was showered with currency, pork products, and words normally used to summon cabs in New York City by Twins fans, apparently distraught over Knoblauch's request for a trade after the 1997 season.
The commotion was actually enough to stop the game, and I was astonished (and disappointed) that the game was not forfeited. As a result of the incident there were upwards of 150 security personnel working the left-field bleachers during this week's Twins/Yankees matchup at Yankee Stadium, to keep Jacque Jones from being hit by things like anti-personnel mines and major appliances.
Pretty much everyone agrees that the behavior of that small group of fans in the Metrodome was reprehensible, that this sort of thing shouldn't happen, etc. Yes, it's a bad thing, the people involved are pinheads, and the sun-deprived folks in Minnesota are not represented by this particular cadre of buffoons. We all agree on that.
The bigger question is this:
What the hell are these people thinking? What freakin' more do they want than Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman?
On February 6, 1998, the Twins sent Chuck Knoblauch to the Yankees for Eric Milton, Cristian Guzman, Brian Buchanan, Danny Mota, and cash. Let's just focus on Milton for the time being. Here's what Milton had done on the field since the trade at the time of the meat by-product incident:
On Tuesday, Milton shut out the Yankees, and his performance so far this year is relatively deity-like:
Almost everyone agrees that Milton is a lock to be a great pitcher for a long time. What has Chuck Knoblauch done since becoming a Yankee? His inability to throw accurately has been well chronicled, but how about with the bat? At the time he was accosted by flying objects, he had posted this during his Yankee career:
And, for the 2001 season to date?
Put simply, Knoblauch has turned left field into a pressing need for the Yankees. He's making $6,000,000 this year, and paying $6 million for a left fielder who plays like Dave Magadan with speed isn't a great strategy if your goal is to repeat as world champions.
Explain to me again why Twins fans are upset rather than ecstatic over this trade.
Usually, when the Yankees make a deal in which they give up a prospect, they don't give up a real prospect. They leak a bunch of information to the media about how wonderful and "projectable" a player is, then dump him on some needy club for a pretty good player. You can probably catch the Alfonso Soriano version of this later this year, when the Yankees might well pick up the 2001 version of David Justice from some poor GM who thinks Soriano is going to be next Vladimir Guerrero, rather than Mariano Duncan II.
The Twins fans shouldn't be showering Knoblauch with loose change and cheap meat; they should be sending Godiva chocolates and Dom Perignon to his friggin' hotel room. You don't see us A's fans pelting Kenny Rogers with drachma and olive loaf, after all.
It takes a special type of stupidity (usually fortified with ethanol) to fling stuff on the field at an opposing player. It takes an entirely different type not to recognize an outstanding deal when you're being beaten over the head with it. The intersection of these two types of stupidity was amply showcased at the Metrodome at the end of April. I'm not sure which flavor of duh I find more distasteful, but it's probably the looking-a-gift-horse-in-the-mouth synapse gap.
A triple machine shortstop posting a 934 OPS, a #1 starter, and cash for Chuck Knoblauch, and then you pelt him with loose change. Hasn't Chuck given enough? You can't trade him again, ferchrissake.
Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.