It was a sad day for baseball Monday with the news that Pedro Borbon had left us way too soon at the age of 65. He is best known for being part of the relief crew for the Cincinnati Reds in their hey day of the “Big Red Machine”. He was a member of the Reds when they won back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976. He won 13 games in those two seasons to go along with 13 saves with over 120 innings pitched in both years. Borbon also led all pitchers in appearances between 1970 and 1978. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family including his son, former Major League pitcher Pedro Borbon, Jr.
The death of Borbon has brought out something that has been on my mind for quite a while. That, is what happened to the Reds in 1977? There they were, two-time champions of baseball coming off one of the most dominant seasons in history. In 1976, they won 102 games (after winning 108 in 1975) and swept both the Phillies in the National League Championship Series and the Yankees in the World Series, the only team in history to do both. On top of that, at the trading deadline in 1977, they acquired Tom Seaver one of the best pitchers ever, still with a lot left in his career. Pedro Borbon actually set a career high in saves with 18 coupled with 10 victories. Yet, they slumped to an 88 win, 2nd place finish.
I suppose it started when Tony Perez was traded by the Reds to Montreal after the ’76 season. He was a big run producer who eventually went on to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Although Seaver won 21 games and Borbon was outstanding in the bullpen, the pitching as a whole was average at best. Don Gullet, who won 26 games the previous two seasons signed a free agent deal with the Yankees. Will McEnaney, an integral part of the bullpen, was part of the Perez deal. The only other pitcher on the staff with more than ten wins was Fred Norman with 14. Most of all, it was time for the Dodgers to break through. They were loaded with All-Stars and went to the World Series. They proved ’77 was no fluke by repeating as National League Champions in 1978.
Overly simplistic? Perhaps. I was four years old in 1977. However, I have the magic of baseballreference.com to help me plus a good old fashioned sense of baseball history. This piece helped me understand why the Reds fell when logic dictated they shouldn’t have. It also helped me examine the career of Pedro Borbon and realize that he was an excellent reliever in his non-World Series years. Rest in Peace, Pedro.
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