As he announced his retirement from baseball after 14 seasons on Thursday, San Francisco Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt delivered a candid take on the aspects of baseball he won’t miss after he’s done playing.
Among the things Affeldt will be happy to no longer deal with are Phillies fans, poor facilities at Wrigley Field, constant travel, the recent influx of incessant showboating, and drug testing.
As the 36-year-old left-hander discussed the latter topic, he delved into his opinions on PED use in baseball, having made his major-league debut at the height of the steroid era in 2002.
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"While I can’t say for sure how (many) guys are still on something today, I do know that it’s a lot less than the roughly 40 percent of players I believe were cheating 15 years ago," he wrote in an essay for Sports Illustrated.
Affeldt stated that he never took performance-enhancing drugs during his career and assured that MLB is "100 times cleaner now" than it was when he entered the league as a 22-year-old spot starter in the early 2000s.
While he pointed out the game is substantially cleaner now, he believes that players still use PEDs as they continue to discover new ways to avoid detection in testing despite harsher penalties for being caught with a banned substance.
Although he didn’t personally take PEDs, Affeldt described the major impact their rampant use had on his career.
"It was selfish of them, though, and unfair to those of us who weren’t doing it," he wrote. "By inflating (or, in the pitchers’ cases, deflating) their numbers, PED abusers were taking food off my table, rendering my accomplishments and statistical achievements less meaningful — and certainly less useful when negotiating my contracts."
Among his career accomplishments, Affeldt won three World Series titles with the Giants, to which he made a major contribution with his shutdown relief in key situations.
In 33 postseason games, Affeldt posted an 0.86 ERA, and didn’t allow a run in 22 innings in the Giants’ last two World Series campaigns in 2012 and 2014.
"Most people don’t believe me, but I really didn’t do anything different on the mound in the postseason than I did during the regular season," said Affeldt, who has a 3.97 career regular-season ERA. "My success in the most critical of situations was just as easily attributable to my managers putting me in good positions to succeed and my defense making plays behind me as it was because of anything I did out there."
Despite his negative musings on the game, Affeldt concludes his essay on a positive note about the sport that granted him the opportunity to do what he loved while simultaneously making millions of dollars.
"As I ride off into the sunset, I truly believe the future of baseball is in great (if not overly demonstrative) hands," he wrote. "Here’s hoping the game’s young stewards take time off from patting themselves on the back, though, if only to take notice of how us old guys do things."