In New York's 2010 gubernatorial election, more than 41,000 people voted for Jimmy McMillan. Even if that comprised less than 1 percent of the vote, McMillan ran on a platform that appealed to the baser instincts of New Yorkers. He was no ordinary politician. He was the heart, soul and perhaps only member of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party.
Sometimes, as was the case in the American League Most Valuable Player balloting released Monday, Young's charms are too difficult to vote against. He runs out ground balls. He rotates among different positions. He mentors younger players on the Texas Rangers. He plays the game the right way, whatever the right way may be. And in a year where starter Justin Verlander(notes) won the award with one of the great showings in recent history and Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) finished second with an all-around command performance and Jose Bautista(notes) followed a historic season with an even better one and Miguel Cabrera(notes) was nearly as good while helping lead his team to the playoffs – in a year where plenty of real MVP candidates put up real MVP numbers – Michael Young tunneled his way into one voter's spirit and nabbed himself a first-place vote, which pretty much everyone believed was too damn high.
Everyone but the man who cast the ballot, Dallas Morning News baseball writer Evan Grant, and Jimmy McMillan, an expert on things too damn high.
"I like Mike. He's just like me," McMillan said over the phone Monday afternoon. "He's not supposed to be there, but he's there. McMillan look like Santa Claus. He wore sneakers to the debate. I like Michael Young. I really do. I say this to you, Mike: You keep your head up. Verlander got the vote, but I guarantee you, you're the right guy."
McMillan called from New York, where he was watching "The Situation Room" and doing push-ups. He criticized Newt Gingrich, outlined the Rent Is Too Damn High Party's future, paused for a few more push-ups and, when prompted about sports, went into a minute-long dissection of Eli Manning.
[Related: Justin Verlander adds AL MVP to Cy Young]
Baseball used to be McMillan's sport. Back in the '80s, he said, he was a bodyguard for Mel Hall when the New York Yankees outfielder went to the China Club and the Roseland Ballroom. McMillan said Hall would slip him $50 bills to give to the DJ to play specific songs, and McMillan would hand the DJ $5 and pocket the rest. The partnership did not last long.
McMillan doesn't watch much baseball these days. He knows of Alex Rodriguez(notes), Young's former Rangers teammate, and Josh Hamilton(notes), his current one. He thought he knew who Young was. Then he said there might've been a guy in his platoon in Vietnam named Mike Young.
Either way, McMillan cares not that the sabermetric crowd considers a first-place vote for Young tantamount to voting for Nick Swisher(notes) or Matt Joyce(notes) or Sean Rodriguez(notes) nor that when polled Monday afternoon on whether they would have even placed Young on a 10-person MVP ballot, three general managers' responses went:
"He would probably be No. 5 or 6 on his own team."
None of that matters to Jimmy McMillan because he understands that hard numbers and concrete facts cannot capture the full measure of a man.
"I tell the people: You give that underdog a chance," he said. "Trust me, man. The underdog is me. They misjudge us. If you just give us a little room, we can prove we deserve that spot.
"Mike Young just didn't do anything to capture the imagination of the people. He needs to focus on practicing on a lumpy field so when the ball jumps he don't miss it. He made too many damn errors."
Indeed, Young's defense did hinder the offensive contributions he made this season, which were impressive. His .338 batting average ranked third in the AL, his .380 on-base percentage was the second best of his 11-year career and his 299 total bases led the Rangers. Never mind that Young put up almost the exactly same numbers in 2005 and the highest he landed on the ballot was a pair of sixth-place votes. The Rangers won the AL West this season, so Young also received at least one vote in every other slot, second through 10th.
Grant's first-place vote stirred the masses more than any of the others who lauded Young's season. He had alluded to his ballot in September when he wrote of Young's "intrinsic value" – the positional flexibility, the mentoring of young players and how Mike Napoli(notes) "followed him around like a puppy dog."
This reminded McMillan of himself.
"Every child is my child," he said, "whether they are old or young. Or Michael Young."
Since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo won last year's election, McMillan said, hundreds of people have approached him on the street and declared their appreciation for his movement. McMillan asks if they voted for him. Most say no.
And outside of Dallas, the Michael Young revolution is unlikely to take hold anytime soon. Sure, he always will be popular with the 3-year-old crowd as well as those who like dirty uniforms, value the unquantifiable over the known and live in myopic worlds in which the indefensible position is taken to make a grander point.
It's just one vote, after all, something that speaks as much to the fitness of a voting bloc as did the votes for Jimmy McMillan. In fact, when pressed for his MVP vote this season, McMillan asked for a list of names before rendering his ultimate verdict. And even though he stands on stage professing not to play "politics as usual" and "the silly game," McMillan couldn't help himself from flip-flopping like any politician looking for support.
"I like Verlander," he said. "I mean, it would be stupid not to vote for him. The people are usually right. Right? But then again, I gotta go with Michael.
"I hope he thinks the rent is too damn high."
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- Jimmy McMillan