This decade, about to come to an end, has not been a pleasant one for Chuck Knoblauch. The former Yankees second-baseman/left-fielder/designated hitter/Olbermann mother-hitter was an All-Star Gold-Glove World Champion in 1998, and an outstanding hitter in 1999, smacking 18 homers and stealing 23 bases. Then, sometime around then, it all fell apart.
In the wake of Knoblauch’s arrest for assaulting his soon-to-be-ex-wife — he tried to choke her after he “had been drinking heavily and taking Xanax” — it’s worth looking at exactly when it all started going wrong for Knoblauch, who was once one of the most popular, beloved players in the game. With Minnesota, he had won a World Series, been named Rookie of the Year and made four All-Star teams. Then he came here.
Even in 1998, the greatest of all Yankees seasons, Knoblauch was most well known for a mental mistake: holding the ball to argue with a first-base umpire after a bad call against the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, allowing the eventual winning run to score. Knoblauch’s real breakdown came next season, with his second-base yips — his sudden, inexplicable inability to throw the ball to the first-baseman, the most basic, easiest move a second-baseman makes. He lasted until 2001, when he batted .056 in the World Series. He had a terrible season in Kansas City and then retired at the young age of 33. A guy who some spoke of as a potential Hall of Famer at the beginning of his career fell off the grid.
He returned two years ago when he showed up in the Mitchell Report, accused by Brian McNamee of using Human Growth Hormone. He didn’t seem to care: “I don’t want anything to do with baseball,” he said. Before the Mitchell Report, the Yankees didn’t even know where he lived.
And now, more trouble, more serious this time. It is amazing how quickly a baseball life can fall apart.