McCoy: I was wrong about the Reds. Dead wrong.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

How is crow best served? Fried? Baked? Grilled? Filleted?

In my case, I should be forced to eat it raw with cold gravy. If confession is good for the soul, I’m about to have a moon-sized soul.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. Deader than a dead skunk in the middle of the road when I predicted before the season another last place 100-loss season for the Cincinnati Reds. I’ve already called 1-800-GOT JUNK to fetch my crystal ball.

Who knew? Who knew that the Reds would call up rookies Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain and Andrew Abbott and they would play like Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter and Sandy Koufax.

It began the way I expected. On May 22, they were 19-27, six games behind and residing in last place. Since then, they are 31-14 and in first place, one game in front of the Milwaukee Brewers with a 50-41 record.

The 50 wins are the most for the Reds at the All-Star break since 2014. And in 33 of those wins they have had to come from behind.

The influx of the young talent turned this team on like the ignition switch on a race car. They provided the physical talent and brought forth aggressiveness, confidence, and all-out success, too young and naive to believe they can’t win every game.

For sure, the team is known for its speed, stealing bases, and always looking for the extra base. It puts the defense on a nervous high alert. They’ve stolen 112 bases and have been caught only 24 times through 91 games. They stole 58 bases and were caught 33 times all of last season.

And although the team is not power-laden, timely home runs reverberate off their bats. They did something no other Reds team in history did — they homered in 22 straight games.

A year ago, when the Reds did finish last and did lose 100 games, watching them was about as much fun as watching re-runs of the NBC TV show ‘My Mother the Car.’ As a result, attendance was shameful, an ocean of empty seats in Great American Ball Park.

Now the Reds, self-anointed as America’s Team, are must-watch TV, better than ‘This Is Us.’ Attendance has spiked accordingly – it’s not unusual to have 30,000-plus in those once-empty seats.

You get to watch De La Cruz, jewelry dangling and braids flying, make a mockery of the opposition. He is so fast he can steal second, run back to first on the same play and steal second again.

When he hits home runs, they travel with the speed of light and they measure the distances in mileage. With his strong arm, his throws could beat a rifle bullet from shortstop to first base.

Too much hyperbole? Probably so, but the dictionary doesn’t have the right words to describe what the 21-year-old rookie is doing to the baseball world.

He beats out triples standing up and recently tagged up at second and took third on a shallow fly ball to left. And most incredible of all, he stole second, third and home on two pitches. Who does that? Nobody but Elly De La Cruz.

In a little more than a month of MLB experience, 30 games, his slash line is .325/.363/.524 with an OPS of .887. He has four homers, nine doubles, two triples and 16 RBI. He has stolen 16 bases in 18 tries.

McLain? He’s the best thing to hit Cincinnati since McDonald’s. They said they held him back in the minors to work on defense. Some scout should be sent to stand in a corner for that assessment.

He covers shortstop like a tarpaulin. He turns double plays like a Dracula Fly, which scientists say is 5,000 times quicker than the blink of an eye. And he hits (.301 average).

McLain is 10 inches shorter than De La Cruz, but he hits for power, especially to dead center and has seven homers, 16 doubles and four triples in 50 games.

Abbott showed up and immediately made good major league hitters swing at anything he throws in the Great American Ball Park zip code.

He began his career 4-0 with a 1.21 earned run average for his first six starts, all won by the Reds. He hit a slight bump in his last start before the All-Star break in Milwaukee and lost for the first time.

And how about outfielder Will Benson? The first time he was called up he went 1 for 25 and looked like George Benson singing out of tune. They sent him back down and most fans thought they would never see him again.

Something clicked in Louisville. It was Benson. He returned to the Reds and in June was one of the most productive hitters in all of MLB.

And the team’s success, aggressiveness, never-quit demeanor, and fraternity house camaraderie has rejuvenated 39-year-old Joey Votto. Suddenly, the $25 million Man is playing like the guy who was National League MVP in 2010.

There is something unique with this team. Votto is a 15-year veteran. When he is in the lineup, he has more MLB service time than the rest of the lineup combined. Usually, the other nine guys possess less than 13 years of service combined.

It seems somebody different pops up wearing the hero’s Viking helmet every game. The most underrated are Spencer Steer, still a rookie who plays every position but left out and leads the team in home runs with 14, and TJ Friedl, who uses his bat like a magic wand in placing bunts leading the league with nine bunts for hits.

Jonathan India is up-and-down but has provided leadership and chipped in with some more-than-useful hits.

And when it is closing time, Alexis Diaz is as effective as a bouncer. He strikes out about two batters an inning with a heat-seeking, deep-diving slider. He recorded saves in 26 of his first 27 opportunities before the All-Star break, saving more than half of Cincinnati’s 50 wins in his second season as the Reds’ closer.

“This team is playing unbelievable, undeniable baseball that you just know they’re going to come back and win the game,” said Diaz, who makes certain it happens.

And in one sentence, Diaz said it all.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

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