Popo: Believe it or not, the Reds are winning. Are you buying in?

Popo: Believe it or not, the Reds are winning. Are you buying in?
Posted at 11:43 AM, Apr 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-11 11:43:49-04

Remember the first day of swimming lessons? You dipped your toe into the pool and shivered. The instructor said "just jump in." But you weren't so sure. In went an ankle, a calf and maybe a knee. Then you pulled back. Not so fast.

It's the same reticence Reds fans feel a week into the season. Duty brought them back, curiosity made them look and a couple of wins got them to stick around. But they're still not ready to take the plunge.

Who is at this stage of the season?

I sensed it Monday at the local hardware store. One of the counter guys asked me if the Reds pitching could hold up. All the guys around him rolled their eyes and gave me that look as if to say "what a schmuck!"

I grabbed a salad at a wings joint in Newport Monday night. It has about a hundred big TVs on the wall and most of them were tuned to the Reds-Pirates game. There were a couple of muted cheers when the Reds went ahead 3-0. Then a couple of half-hearted claps when Adam Duvall delivered another run. Then a guy piped up "just watch these guys, they'll blow it." So much for confidence.

In this, the start of Holy Week, there's a Doubting Thomas perched on every bar stool. Perhaps the Reds' 2017 slogan should be "Oh Ye of Little Faith."

Seeing is believing and Reds fans simply haven't seen enough yet.

The Lenten season is one of self-denial and Reds fans are steadfastly denying that their team is any good.  They're afraid of getting burned.

It's like working up the nerve to ask out the prettiest girl in the class, or trying sushi for the first time. You don't know the outcome, and you want to see more of the goods before you buy in.

I get it. The Indians have been my weakness since birth. I was born with a gullible gene and I've believed the Indians were going to win the World Series every year. I'm eligible for Medicare and I'm still waiting.

The Reds, my adopted team, are making their case. They started with a series win at home and we all said, "so what?" They did that a year ago.

Then they went to St. Louis and won a series and we figured it must be a misprint.

But then they started a series in Pittsburgh with an impressive win and you wondered if it's time to jump back on the bandwagon.

Not yet.

There are things to be concerned about. Joey Votto is off to another one of his patented slow starts. They need his bat.

More worrisome is the pitching. We all know that you can't have too many starting pitchers last only three innings. The bullpen will be gassed in a month.

Yet, there are things to feel good about. It appears this team will score runs, both with the scratch and the swat.

I like the swagger, too. Michael Lorenzen reminds me of a commercial of a few decades ago when noted tough guy Robert Conrad would put a battery on his shoulder and challenge somebody to knock it off. "Go ahead, I dare you," he'd say in a badass way. Lorenzen has that same sort of arrogance.

My eyes tell me this team is better. Most of these players endured last season. The great Al McGuire used to say that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. The same is true for rookies, they become second-year players. They should be more familiar and less fragile.

No, I don't expect this team to win the pennant, but I do expect steady progress, inching closer to a break-even mark and perhaps even better. As a fan, progress and effort is what you hope for. Then it's worth taking that dive into the deep end with your time and emotions.

After all it's Holy Week. What better time for a leap of faith?