Bob Brenly’s ‘racial attack’ on Stroman personal for Aramis Ramirez

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Why Brenly’s ‘racial attack’ on Stroman personal to ex-Cub originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Former Cubs All-Star Aramis Ramírez said he gave Bob Brenly the benefit of the doubt when he felt targeted in a way white players weren’t by the former Cubs broadcaster when they were both in Chicago.

“He doesn’t deserve that anymore,” Ramírez said Thursday, calling Brenly a “repeat offender” after hearing Brenly, now a Diamondbacks broadcaster, make fun of Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman’s du-rag during the Mets-D’Backs broadcast Tuesday.

“What he said about Stroman was just wrong,” said Ramírez who talked Thursday with NBC Sports Chicago by phone and via Zoom from his home in the Dominican Republic.

Ramírez, a two-time All-Star who received MVP votes four times during his eight full seasons with the Cubs, said he felt he and Latin teammates such as Starlin Castro, Geo Soto and Alfonso Soriano were singled out for especially harsh criticism by Brenly when he broadcast Cubs games before leaving after 2012 for Arizona, where he’d won the 2001 World Series as a manager.

“I took it as a personal attack and maybe a racial attack,” Ramírez said. “And now with this thing with Stroman, that’s not ‘maybe.’ That’s a racial attack right there.”

Brenly, who referred to a statement released through the team when asked about Ramirez Thursday, has taken a voluntary weeklong leave from the booth, starting Thursday.

“I plan to return to the booth next homestand, hopefully a better person,” he said in a statement Thursday, one day after apologizing through the team for “a poor attempt at humor that was insensitive and wrong.”

During the second inning Tuesday, with the camera focused on Stroman, wearing a du-rag visible under his cap, Brenly said: “Pretty sure that’s the same du-rag that Tom Seaver used to wear when he pitched for the Mets.”

His broadcast partner ignored the joke and changed the subject. Stroman later referred to “racist undertones” of the comment in a tweet.

Ramírez, who follows the Mets as a close friend of Mets manager Luis Rojas, was moved enough by the Stroman remark to publish rare tweets from his own account questioning how Brenly still had a broadcasting job.

“It brought back bad memories of the way he went after me for no reason,” said Ramírez, who notably fired back at Brenly in the Sun-Times during his first spring after signing with the Brewers as a free agent — after Brenly had questioned his effort and desire as a Cub.

“I ain’t going to get into a war with Brenly or any other guy,” Ramírez told the Sun-Times then. “Brenly played the game. He knows how it is. And if you want, you can put my numbers right next to his and see who did better in their career.”

Brenly stood by his original criticism, telling the Sun-Times in response: “Until I see him hustle for nine innings every day, I feel he’ll never be the great player he could be. I don’t argue his stats. They stand on their own. I guess it’s my perception of him not being as good as he could be. If he’s content to be good and not great, that’s up to him.”

Brenly has not shied from being critical of players in general as a broadcaster. For example, he was no fan of the defensive work of second baseman Todd Walker, who is white.

But during his final years in Chicago, several All-Star Latin players seemed to take a lot of the more stinging comments from Brenly, including in 2008 when he said on the air that you could throw a dart in the Cubs dugout and find a better fielder than Soriano — a comment Brenly later told ESPN he regretted for being too harsh.

“He’s a repeat offender,” Ramírez said, citing a comment during a 2019 broadcast when Brenly made fun of the “bike chain around his neck” that Padres rookie sensation Fernando Tatis Jr. wore.

“For some reason this guy just goes after Black and Latin players,” Ramírez said. “There’s no place in our game for that type of stuff. Especially with what the United States is going through.”

Ramírez, who also has a home in Miami, said he was there last year in the wake of the George Floyd murder by Minneapolis police, as protests filled the streets in cities across the country.

“Everything was shut down in Miami because of it,” he said. “This guy says something like that, especially in a time like this, when people are so sensitive about that. It’s just wrong.

“And there’s no reason to put up with that kind of stuff,” he added. “I’m sure there’s a long line of good commentators and people on TV that can do that job way better than he does.”

Ramírez, who played in towns from Augusta, Georgia., and Lynchburg, Virginia, to Erie, Pennsylvania, on his way to the big leagues said his experience with Brenly was unique in his career.

“I never had a racial problem before or after that, in my life,” he said. “Never. I never had any kind of trouble in Milwaukee. I always got along with Black guys, Latin guys, white guys.

“I had a problem with one player, and he was a Latin player,” he added. “Carlos Silva, in spring training one year.”

Brenly’s not alone among broadcasters drawing public fire for “insensitive” comments in recent years.

Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman, another former Cubs broadcaster, was compelled to resign after being caught on a hot mic using a homophobic slur during a break. And Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass criticized Cubs shortstop Javy Báez for too much “flashiness” and singled out Atlanta outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. for the chains he wears.

Wherever such comments might fall on the scale between tone-deaf and racist, they’re especially intolerable in today’s post-Floyd America when we should all know better, Ramírez said.

“I just thought, man, how can a team put up with that stuff? How can an ownership?” Ramírez said of Brenly’s comment. “Especially at a time like this.

“And I have bad news for him,” Ramírez added. “There’s a lot of good Latin players. Good Latin players he’s going to have to be watching for a long time — a long time. Superstars. Tatis, [Juan] Soto, [Vlad] Guerrero Jr., Acuña. We’re talking about some of the best players in the game. If you don’t like that race, man, you can’t be watching baseball anymore."

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