Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella on Friday defended catcher Geovany Soto, who tested positive for marijuana during the World Baseball Classic, by admitting he once smoked pot.
“Look, I have smoked dope one time in my life,” Piniella said before the Cubs faced the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. “And it didn’t do a damn thing for me, and I never tried it again. I’m fortunate because of that. A lot of people do. You can even buy it in California from a pharmacy.
“I do know young people make mistakes at times and learn from mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life personally, and I’ve learned from them.”
News of Soto testing positive while he played for Puerto Rico in the WBC surfaced Thursday. The WBC took place in March. Piniella believes the weight of knowing that revelation would come out affected Soto, who is the reigning National League rookie of the year and has struggled this season.
“I wasn’t aware of this until three or four days ago, and if I had been aware of it, truthfully, I would have encouraged Geo to speak about this much sooner to get it off his chest,” Piniella said. “I think it’s really had a negative effect on his performance.
“It was supposed to come out a few times and they delayed it, and I don’t think it’s done any good. I would have encouraged the player to come out and say this is what’s going to come out, this is what’s happened, I’m embarrassed about it and it’s not going to happen again. I’m done with it. Basically, that would have been the best approach, as far as I’m concerned.”
Soto said in a statement that it was an isolated incident.
“I read his comments,” Piniella said. “He knows what he did was wrong. He said he’s embarrassed and sorry about it, and it’s over with. It’s a non-issue as far as I’m concerned.”
– Article from ESPN Chicagoon June 26, 2009.