(Tom Cruze/Sun-Times photo)
When controversy finds the modern professional athlete, they're prone to either face the public and atone for their perceived sins, or turn and run.
Recently, Bulls guard Derrick Rose came under fire for the latter, but Cubs catcher Geovany Soto chose the former -- and he's to be commended for it.
Although he's known for weeks that his positive marijuana test from the World Baseball Classic would eventually become media fodder, Soto chose Friday to face the cameras and answer reporters' questions just a few hours before he blasted the decisive three-run home run in the seventh inning of the Cubs-White Sox game.
Without getting into specifics, Soto reiterated Thursday's issued apology and offered no specific comment on whether his knowledge of the impending brouhaha contributed to his sub-par on-field performance in April and May.
Even after telling reporters Thursday that he hoped the topic wouldn't come up again, he was gracious in answering questions about it again Friday.
"Obviously, you know, you feel responsible for your actions, but I'm done with it," Soto told a few reporters after taking batting practice. "Basically, I'm here to do my job and that's my number one priority right now."
See how easy that was? And I can almost guarantee that the same questions won't be asked again Saturday or Sunday.
"I think it's really had a negative affect on his performance," said Piniella, who told reporters that he smoked pot once and "it didn't do a damn thing" for him. "It was supposed to come out a few times and they delayed it. I would encourage a player to come out and say what's going to come out."
But the fact that Soto stood up and answered questions at all is something that's becoming increasingly rare in professional sports. Soto showed when a situation like this is handled with a bit of class, maturity and honesty, the transgression has a tendency to fade quietly into the background and become an afterthought at most.
With the secret out in the open, it just so happens that Soto has picked up his game. What began as a sophomore slump is now turning around, and last year's top National League rookie seems to be returning to form with four home runs in his last eight games.
It'll be interesting to see how Soto's teammate, Milton Bradley, handles the fallout from his most recent outburst in the Cubs' dugout that prompted Piniella to ask him to take off his uniform and go home. Bradley has a tendency to avoid the media and let uncomfortable situations fester.
These are the types of distractions that can cause a good team to play below its potential. The teams that deal with these distractions head-on and quiet them before whispers become fog horns are the ones that succeed and even play beyond their potential.
As Soto said before the game, it is what it is.
Young people make mistakes. Reporters make mistakes. Bloggers make mistakes. You'd be hard-pressed to find a person alive who hasn't made a mistake that affected those around them in some way. It's how we handle those mistakes that determine whether we're remembered for them or remembered in spite of them.