McCoy: The Reds’ Two ED’s — Eric and Elly

By Hal McCoy

They both carry the initials E.D. One formerly carried the heavy burden of cloud-high expections. One now carries the same burden.

One reached those burdensome goals, the other is about to see if he can reach those lofty clouds.

They are Eric Davis and Elly De La Cruz. Both own baseball’s version of superstardom — five-tool players.

Despite that, both showed flashes of greatness in their first season with the Cincinnati Reds, but endured their struggles.

Eric Davis arrived in Cincinnati in 1984 and appeared in 57 games with 200 plate appearances. He hit 10 homers, drove in 30, stole 10 base and spliced together a slash line of .224/.320/.420, nothing that made splashy headlines.

Elly De La Cruz debuted last Jume and appeared in 98 gamess with 427 plate appearances. He hit 13 homers, drove in 44 and stole 35 bases. His slash line was .235/.300/.410, somewhat similar to Davis.

And wasn’t it ironic that when De La Cruz hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, home run) in a game last season, he was the first Cincinnati batsman to do it since Davis?

Elly’s early success, though, brought him big, bold headlines and his molten start to his career ended last seaason in dying embers, numbers that included 144 strikeouts for his 427 appearances.

He never saw a low, outside breaking pitch that didn’t look like a New York strip streak dinner. For him it was hamburger meat. Too often he took a dugout seat to rest his strikeouts.

Talk about meat? De La Cruz already has a steak named after him on the menu at the famous Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in downtown Cincinnati.

Davis went on to become the superstar that was wriitten on his ticket, an enduring and endearing player. In 1986 he hit 27 homers, drove in 71 and stole 80 bases. In 1987 he hit 37 homers, drove in 100 and stole 50 bases.

In 1990, Eric the Red was a major piece of manager Lous Piniella’s World Series champions, along with Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, Billy Hatcher, Joe Oliver, Ron Oester, Hal Morris, Todd Benzinger and the Nasty Boys bullep (Rob Dibble, Norm Charltpn, Randy Myers), Jose Rijo and Tom Browning.

Davis provided 24 hommers, 86 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a .281/.367/.541 slaash line.

So it is a neon legacy that Davis left, one fans now expect Elly De La Crus to construct. And is it a coincidenc that Elly wears uniform number 44, the same number worn by Davis.

Is it realistic? After the first month, some folks were dusting out a corner of Cooperstown for De La Cruz’s plaque. Then came his sad September song.

Nevertheless, some of the things he did were above and beyond extraordinary.

He was promoted to the Reds on June 6 when Nick Senzel was injured and the first time first baseman Joey Votto saw him, he said, “He’s the best runner I’ve ever seen and has the most power I’ve ever seen. And he has the strongest arm I’ve ever seen.”

As for speed, Statcast said De La Cruz and Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr. were the fastest runners in MLB last season, 30.5 feet per second. They could both win the fourth race at Wheeling Downs greyhound track.

During a July 8 game he stole second, third and home in the same inning, the first Reds’ player to do it since Greasy Neale in 1919. But ol’ Greasy didn’t do it in two pitches. De La Cruz did.

As for power, on June 7 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, his first major league home run traveled 458 feet and nearly took down one of the smokestacks on the fake paddle-wheel boat in center field.

As for his arm, his throws to first base averaged 95.6 miles per hour, highest velocity of any major leaguer in 2023.

As for more Davis-De La Cruz comparisons, Davis signed as a shortstop and was shifted to the outfield. At 6-foot-5, some believe Elly is too tall for a shortstop, as if there is a legal limit, and there has been chatter about moving him to the outfield where his speed and arm can be more utilized.

But he struggled mightily in September as teams made adjustments. Now it is up to him to re-adjust.

While expectations remain high, and the talent, makekup and natural ability is all there, it is strongly unfair to mention his name and Cooperstown in the same breath, as it is to mention Davis and De La Cruz in the same sentence.

Adding to De La Cruz’s popularity is his personality. He owns one of those old permanent Pepsodent smiles and it is evident he loves the game. And he survived being the youngest of nine siblings.

But it’s all there for De La Cruz to do it. His career is in the future tense.

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