Archive for February 2014

Two Small Local Moves

February 27, 2014

Earlier this week the San Francisco Giants signed free agent outfielder Tyler Colvin, and today the Oakland A’s traded a player to be named later or cash for jack-of-all-trades infielder Jake Elmore.  I like the A’s move better.

Colvin is former first round draft pick, who hit well for the Cubs in 2010 (.816 OPS) and the Rockies in in 2012 (.858 OPS).  However, in 2011 and 2013, he didn’t hit at all at the major league level (.509 and .472 OPS, respectively).

At best, I would expect Colvin to hit like Nate Schierholtz did when he was a Giant, and Colvin’s right field defense isn’t as good.  Wrigley and Coors Fields are among the very best hitters’ parks in MLB, while AT&T Park is one of the worst.

There is also a concern about Colvin’s health.  He had reached a deal on a contract amount with the Orioles, but the team nixed the deal after Colvin’s physical.  The O’s may well have been over-reacting, but there must have been something that caused their concern.

Colvin has a big platoon differential, so he could be useful batting almost exclusively against right-handed pitching, if he remains healthy.  Colvin is currently 28 years old.

Jake Elmore has done much less to date than Colvin at the major league level, but I think he’s likely to do more in the future.  He’s a classic money ball player, with a career minor league on-base percentage of .387, including a fantastic .442 OBP at AAA Reno in 2012 and .382 OBP at AAA Oklahoma City in 2013, and he has the ability to play every position on the diamond.  His best defensive position is probably second base.

Elmore has batted only .223/.290/.298 in 209 career major league plate appearances, but he will be 27 in 2014, the age at which players as a group tend to peak.  He now has enough major league experience under his belt that he could turn out to be an extremely useful player for the A’s in 2014 and perhaps the next couple of seasons thereafter.

What Do KBO Baseball Players Make?

February 26, 2014

mykbo.net has fine piece today listing the top paid South Korean players in the KBO in 2014.  Only one player (11 year KBO veteran and former NPB player Tae-kyun Kim) is making more than $1 million at current exchange rates in 2014.  Kim is making $1.41 million.  Sixteen other South Korean players are making between $940,000 and $470,000 (one billion to 500 million won) in 2014.

mykbo.net does not provide salaries for foreign players playing the KBO.  What they make is something of a mystery, because until this off-season there was a $300,000 cap on foreign player salaries that none of the KBO teams actually followed.

However, my educated guess is that all 28 foreign players playing in the KBO at the start of the 2014 season will be making somewhere between $300,000 and $1 million, with the specific number based on each player’s past KBO experience, past MLB success and past KBO success.  My guess is that three-year KBO veteran Dustin Nippert and long-time MLB veteran Luke Scott will be the highest paid foreign players in 2014.

P.S. The amounts paid to top KBO players should continue to rise over the next few seasons, as the free agent deals signed this off-season appear to be heavily back-loaded.

Where in the Draft are Major League Regulars Selected?

February 26, 2014

Three weeks ago I wrote a post about undrafted players from Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico (the countries covered by MLB’s June amateur draft, who I will refer to here as “domestic players”) who eventually made it to the major leagues.  The subject got me thinking about where in the Draft players who play regularly in the major leagues are typically drafted.  Obviously, the largest share of major league regulars is going to come from players selected in the first round, but I was curious to see exactly what the drop-off is like after the first round going down to the 40th round, currently the last round of June Draft.

As stated above, I’m most interested in players who play regularly or at least semi-regularly in the major leagues, and thus are the players who contribute most heavily to their teams, at least in terms of playing time.  I thus looked at all players in the 2013 season who, if they were position players, had at least 290 plate appearance (I originally set the cut-off at 300, but decided I would also catch those players who just missed) and, if they were pitchers, either made at least 60 appearances, pitched in at least 70 innings, faced at least 300 batters or led their team in saves (a surprising number of closers in 2013 did not meet any of the other three criteria).

I ultimately came up with a list of 569 players, or just a hair under 19 players per major league team.  Needless to say, first round draft picks made up the largest share of these players at 147.  The second largest group was undrafted foreign amateurs and professionals at 121.  After the first round, the number of players selected in any subsequent round of the June Draft declined dramatically.  However, it is worth noting that first round picks and undrafted foreign players still made up only 47.1% of the 569 regular and semi-regular players playing in 2013.

Here are the numbers as I crunched them: 1st Round = 147 (or 32.8% of all domestic players); 2nd Round = 52 (11.6%); 3rd Round = 28 (6.3%); 4th Round = 30 (6.7%); 5th Round = 20 (4.5%); 6th Round = 14 (3.1%); 7th Round = 15 (3.3%); 8th Round = 12 (2.7%); 9th Round = 10 (2.2%); 10th Round = 13 (2.9%); 11th through 15th Rounds = 32 total (7.1% or on average 1.4% per round); 16th through 25th Rounds = 45 total (10% or on average 1% per round); 26th Round through end of Draft (before 1998 unlimited; 50 rounds from 1998 through 2011 and 40 rounds the last two years) = 22 total (4.9% or roughly 0.2% per round); undrafted domestic players = 8 (1.8%).

It’s worth noting here that the 1st Round of the June Draft is typically more like a round and a half due to supplemental picks awarded for various reasons.  I made no effort to distinguish the first 30 picks from the supplemental picks for purposes of this study.  However and in any event, it appears clear that a 1st Round Draft Pick is at least twice as likely as a 2nd Rounder to eventually become a major league regular, at least based on the 2013 season.

Further, 3rd and 4th Round picks are a little more than half as likely to become major league regulars as 2nd round picks, and 5th Round picks are a little less than half as likely to become major league regulars as 2nd Round picks — the average for Rounds 3, 4 and 5 is exactly half that for Round 2.  A player drafted in any of the 6th though 10th rounds had roughly the same likelihood (slightly higher for rounds 6 and 7, slightly lower for rounds 8-10) of developing into a major league regular, an average rate almost exactly half the rate of the average for Rounds 3, 4 and 5.

Players selected in Rounds 11 through 15 are exactly half as likely to develop into major league regulars as players selected in Rounds 6 through 10.  Players selected in Rounds 16 through 25 are approximately 30% less likely to develop into major league regulars than players selected in Rounds 11 through 15.  After the 25th round, the likelihood that a player will develop into a major league regular really collapses, only one-fifth of the rate of Rounds 16-25.

To summarize, if, for the sake of comparison, a 1st Round draft pick has a 50% chance of eventually developing into a major league regular, subsequent rounds look like this: 2nd Round = 25%; Rounds 3-5 = 12.5%; Rounds 6-10 = 6.25%; Rounds 11-15 = 3.1%; Rounds 16-25 = 2.2%; Rounds 26 through End of Draft = 0.4%. [The undrafted domestic players are a complete outlier, as they represent only eight out of tens of thousands of high school and college players who went undrafted over the last ten or so years.]

While the likelihood of a player drafted after the 10th Round developing into a major league regular is a small fraction of a 1st Round pick’s likelihood of developing into such a player, those late round picks who do become major league regulars include some major stars.  Here is a list of some of the current stars selected after the 10th Round of the Draft:

11th Round: Dan Uggla, Mat Latos; 12th Round: Jason Kubel; 13th Round: Albert Pujols, Daniel Murphy, Juan Pierre, Matt Carpenter, A. J. Griffin; 14th Round: Dexter Fowler; 15th Round: Jake Peavy, Kevin Gregg; 16th Round: James Shields, Mark Reynolds, Chris Young; 17th Round: Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler, Josh Reddick, Mitch Moreland, Russell Martin; 18th Round: Mark Trumbo; 19th Round: Pacido Polanco. 

20th Round: Jose Bautista, Dominic Brown; Brad Ziegler; 21st Round: Dillon Gee, Trevor Rosenthal; 22nd Round: Andy Pettitte, Tommie Hanson, Logan Morrison; 23rd Round: Evan Gattis, Matt Adams; 24th Round: Dan Straily; 25th Round: Derek Holland, Nate McClouth; 27th Round: Ryan Cook; 28th Round: Sergio Romo; 29th Round: Adam LaRoche, Kyle Lohse.

30th Round: Scott Feldman, Hector Santiago, Eric Young; 31st Round: Travis Hafner; 33rd Round: Mike Dunn; 34th Round: Chad Gaudin; 36th Round: Raul Ibanez; 38th Round: Mark Buehrle, Rajai Davis.

If you couldn’t put together a winning major league team out of these players, you aren’t trying.

So what conclusions can we draw from all of the above?  For one, we can begin to understand why teams are increasingly valuing their 1st Round Drafts — it’s a team’s one chance in the Draft to get a player with a high probability of future major league success.  After the first round, a draft pick’s chances of future success go down exponentially.

Second, it helps to explain why teams draft so many players each year and why they maintain so many farm teams.  You have to cycle through a lot of players to find those few diamonds in the rough.

Simply based on the limited degree of eventual success for players drafted after the 25th Round, I could see major league teams eventually limiting the Draft to 25 or 30 rounds and even eliminating one or two of the seven minor league levels teams currently use to develop players (Dominican/Venezuelan Summer league for young Caribbean born prospects, rookie league for draftees out of high school, short-season A for draftees out of college, full season A, A+, AA, and AAA).  With the rise of successful Independent A leagues like the Atlantic League, the American Association and the Frontier League, MLB could use these leagues to find and identify the few real prospects that aren’t drafted now until after the 25th Round.

Of course, the main thing that will determine how many rounds the June Draft lasts in the future is the point at which the MLB teams will compete against each other for undrafted domestic players, thus driving up their costs.  The whole purpose of the Draft is to eliminate competition between clubs for amateur talent.

As a final note, we have to wait and see what effect the recently imposed slotting and bonus cap systems will have once players who have been drafted under this new system reach maturity.  I suspect that a lot of the late round draft picks who eventually make it to the major leagues are high school players whose talents were recognized but were expected to go to college, which is why teams did not draft them earlier.  The ability to offer big bonuses to these late drafted players to convince them to forego college has become much more difficult under the new slotting and cap system.

The New Rule Limiting Home Plate Collisions

February 24, 2014

Here from mlb.com is the new rule MLB has adopted to reduce the number of home plate collisions.  The new rule does not explicitly ban home plate collisions, as collisions may occur when the catcher has possession of the ball before the arrival of the runner and then moves to block off the plate.

How the new rule will be enforced by home plate umpires remains to be seen.  The new rule expressly leaves to the “judgment of the umpire” whether a base runner has “deviated from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher” or the “catcher without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner.”

The former new rule clearly bars a base runner, let’s say for example Prince Fielder, intentionally trying to light up a catcher, or a catcher from making blatent attempts to block home plate before he receives the ball. However, it seems to me that most home plate collisions occur with the ball arriving to the catcher at about the same time the base runner arrives with the catcher receiving the throw immediately in front of home plate leaving little option for the base runner except to run through the catcher.  It’s not at all clear whether or not these collisions will now be called a violation by either the base runner or the catcher.  It may well depend on who the particular umpire it is judging the play.

The new rule contains a comment stating that in terms of whether the base runner has violated the rule, factors will include whether the base runner tries to the touch the place or lowers his shoulders or pushes through with his hands, elbow or arms when “veering toward the catcher.”  Again, this seems to imply that the base runner commits no foul if he runs through a catcher so long as he maintains a straight line to home plate.  Comments also state that runners who slide and catcher who leave a lane to the plate open for the base runner cannot be in violation of the rule.

The new rule sounds pretty tepid to me, and I don’t think it will prevent a majority of the home plate collisions that occur under the old rules.  It seems to me that MLB and the players’ union seem to be of two minds about the problem: on one hand, there is concern about preventing injuries to runners and catchers; but on the other hand, there is a desire to keep at least some home plate collisions because they are exciting and some catchers think they have an advantage due to their ability to block the plate.

 

It Was Bound to Happen

February 23, 2014

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday announced that they had signed Nelson Cruz for one year at $8 million plus another possible $875,000 in performance incentives.  The most interesting thing about this signing is that Cruz had previously rejected a qualifying offer from his old team the Texas Rangers for $14.1 million, making Cruz the first player to get less guaranteed money by rejecting the qualifying offer.

There has been a lot in the baseball blogosphere this off-season about how much the players’ union and agents hate the relatively new compensation system for elite free agents and will seek to change the terms the next time the collective bargaining agreement is re-negotiated.  I, for one, am not convinced that the current system isn’t working pretty much as it was intended to work.

Linking elite free agents to draft pick loss and compensation (the signing team loses a late first round or early second round pick, and the former team gets said draft pick, or under the new system a pick at the end of the first round) has long been (for several decades) the method to compensate teams losing the free agent and to create at least some disincentive to other teams considering signing that free agent.

In fact, the new system is better than the old one in that instead of a somewhat arbitrary formula as to what constitutes an elite free agent for purposes of draft pick compensation, the new system allows teams to decide how much they value their free agent by giving him a substantial qualifying offer.

The only real complaint I have about the new system compared to the old system is that teams with the 11th through 15th first round draft pick now lose that draft pick if they sign a free agent who has received a qualifying offer, while under the old system those picks were protected and the teams that possessed them lost a second round draft pick instead of a first round draft pick.  The 11th through 15th pick are highly valuable, and the bad to mediocre teams that possess them have proved unwilling to give those draft picks up, even though they might benefit greatly in the short term by signing an elite free agent.

At any rate, it was bound to happen that eventually one of the free agents receiving and rejecting a qualifying offer would sign a free agent contract for less than the amount of the qualifying offer.  In fact, the fact that to date every single player who in previous off-seasons had received and rejected a qualifying offer and then went on to sign a free agent deal for more money meant that all players who received a qualifying offer this off-season would reject them even as the amount of the qualifying offer has risen and some of the players who received qualifying offers might not be worth as much on the open market as the qualifying offer.

There were hints in off-seasons past that we would eventually see a free agent get burned by rejecting a qualifying offer.  For example, last off-season Adam Laroche rejected a $13.3 million qualifying offer but ultimately re-signed with the Washington Nationals for two years and $24 million, i.e., more guaranteed money but less per season than the qualifying offer.

As salaries for veteran players have shot through the stratosphere, not only because of increased MLB revenues, but also because MLB has in recent years imposed new regimes reducing signing bonuses for amateur players, the value of first round draft picks (and their reasonable likelihood of producing good, initially low-salary major leaguers) has increased dramatically in the eyes of MLB teams.

Even aside from the perceived increased value of first round draft picks, Cruz was a perfect storm for getting burned on rejecting the Rangers’ qualifying offer — he’s old, turning 34 next July 1st, teams wonder how much PED use pumped up his stats in Texas, and he has no defensive value, meaning only American League teams that can use him as a DH were serious contenders for his services.

Many have noted that the contract the Orioles gave Cruz was right in line with what fangraphs says his actual value is.  I doubt that many MLB general managers are consulting fangraphs in deciding which free agents to sign.  However, it isn’t particularly surprising that using their own methodology many teams come to roughly the same conclusions as to Cruz’s value.

Kendrys Morales looks to be the next free agent who gets burned by failing to accept a $14.1 million qualifying offer.  He remains on the market, and his skill set is little different than Cruz’s.

The upshot is that next off-season at least a few free agents and their attorneys will think long and hard before rejecting qualifying offers.  In my mind, that is how it should be, given that the amount of the qualifying offer has been calculated to represent substantial compensation for giving up the right to test the free agent market.  It also isn’t surprising that for some potential free agents, at least, the player has more value to his former team because of his history with the club than he is to any other team.

Philadelphia Phillies Wage War on their Unsigned Draft Picks

February 20, 2014

In a very strange move, the Phillies have reported Ben Wetzler and Jason Monda, two college juniors the Phils selected in the 5th and 6th rounds of last June’s amateur draft, to the NCAA for inappropriate use of financial advisors in dealing with the Phillies.  The NCAA has already cleared Monda to play, but Wetzler has been indefinitely suspended pending further investigation by the NCAA.

Because they are amateurs, the NCAA does not allow drafted college juniors, who make up the bulk of highly drafted college players, to hire agents to negotiate on their behalf with the teams that select them in the June MLB Draft.  It’s a stupid rule and one which college players don’t follow, as they instead have agents act as allegedly unpaid “advisors” in the players’ negotiations with major league clubs.

According to this article, the Phillies “are believed” to have offered Wetzler a signing bonus of “about” $400,000, which if accurate would be about $85,000 more than the slot amount for the 151st overall pick in last year’s draft.  However, Wetzler decided to return to his college team, the Oregon Beavers, for the 2014 season.  While I would have taken the $400,000 bonus, Wetzler was certainly within his rights to elect to return to college.

Something about the negotiations apparently enraged Phillies’ management (perhaps the Phils thought they had a deal for a $400,000 bonus, but then Wetzler’s “advisor” came back at the last minute demanding more?) and they at some point reported Wetzler’s dealings with his advisor to the NCAA.

Some knowledgeable baseball commentators are criticizing the Phillies’ move as damaging to future negotiations between teams and player agents and potentially damaging to the Phillies’ negotiations with future drafted college juniors.  However, given that drafted college juniors have no choice but to sign with the team that drafts them, go back to college for their senior year, or play for a season in the Independent A leagues, it’s hard to see the move having particularly negative impacts for the Phillies, because it’s likely that only a few players at the margins will elect to return to school instead of signing a contract to play ball.

This looks for all the world like yet another example of the NCAA and the professional sports monopolies effectively conspiring to exploit college athletes.  While the exploitation of college basketball and football players, who make tremendous amounts of monies for their schools and yet receive no compensation and stand to be suspended if they take payments or gifts from agents or school alumni (another common practice caused by an obviously unfair rules regime), is far worse than that of college baseball players (baseball programs are usually net money losers, although this may be changing as many college baseball games are now televised), it is ridiculous that college juniors cannot have professional representation in their already heavily one-sided negotiations with the sole team that drafts them.

College juniors should be allowed to enter into contracts with player agents for the sole purpose of negotiating with a drafting team without repercussions on their college eligibility if they elect not to sign and return to college.  What makes a player a professional, rather than an amateur, is getting paid to play.  A college junior who negotiates with a major league team but ultimately does not sign a professional contract does not get paid to play baseball and should not lose amateur standing.

The NCAA’s position that the mere act of hiring a player agent, even if only for the limited purpose of negotiating with a drafting team, constitutes a violation of amateur standing serves no purpose but to maintain the myth that college players should only be allowed to play in exchange for an education, for love of the game and for/or love of the school.  It’s all a lot of baloney in a world were collegiate sports have become big business in their own right.

[P.S.  According to this recent article by Kai Sato on the Huffingtonpost.com, ESPN paid $500 million in 2011 to broadcast the College World Series through the 2023-2024 season.  ESPN also broadcast a record 151 regular season and conference championship games in 2013, up from 110 games the year before.  In short, money is being made on college baseball.]

The First Fall Classic, A Book Review

February 20, 2014

I recently finished reading The First Fall Classic by Mike Vaccaro (Anchor Books 2010), a book about the 1912 world series (according to Vaccaro, the World Series didn’t become capitalized until 1913) between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants.  Vaccaro is a sportswriter for the New York Post.

While I enjoyed reading the book well enough, I can only give it a so-so review for reasons I will elaborate on below.

I had a bit of a hard time getting into the book at first because Vaccaro’s prose is pretty purple.  However, his book relies heavily on newspaper accounts of the day, and I suspect that Vaccaro was trying to capture the sportswriting of that era, which was definitely over-the-top.  Once I came to terms with that style of writing, which has the feel of the books about baseball’s past exploits written for children, the book moved along fairly briskly.

The most interesting thing I took away from the book was Vaccaro’s strong implication that Smokey Joe Wood intentionally threw the next to last game of the 1912 series.

The back story is as follows.  Major league players of this era (with brief exceptions from 1901 to 19o3 when the American League was establishing itself and raiding National League teams for talent and again in 1914-1915 when the upstart and ultimately unsuccessful Federal League created real competition for major league talent) were flat-out exploited and underpaid, and they knew it.

Also, at the time of the 1912 World Series, MLB turned a blind eye on gambling on baseball and there was little concern about players betting on the games in which they played so long as they were betting in favor of their own teams.

The National Commission, a three-man panel which governed the major leagues at the time, had unilaterally instituted a payment system for players playing in the World Series which paid them only for the first four games of the series no matter how many games the series went (players got 60% of the gate receipts for the first four World Series games).  The idea was to prevent the players from intentionally throwing games to make the series last longer so they could get paid more.  There had been suspicions back in 1903, when the Pittsburgh Pirates had jumped out to a three games to one lead in the first World Series but then lost three games in a row at home, that the Pirates hadn’t been giving their best efforts in at least two of those games in order to extend the series.

Well, the National Commission’s decision may have made some sense, but the players hated it because they weren’t allowed any say in it.  Also, the four-game rule did nothing to stop owners from intentionally trying to extend the series and thus collect 100% of revenues from sold-out extra games.

Vaccaro contends that the Red Sox owner James McAleer, himself a former ballplayer, did exactly that.  With the Red Sox leading the series 3-1 after five games (game two ended in a draw on account of darkness — remember, no stadium lights in those days), everyone expected that Joe Wood, who had won 34 games during the regular season and had already defeated the Giants twice in the World Series, would start the next game.  Further, according to Vaccaro, Red Sox manager Jake Stahl fully intended to start Wood in game six.

However, McAleer ordered Stahl to pitch Buck O’Brien instead of Wood, (again according to Vaccaro) in the hopes that O’Brien would lose the game played in New York, so that McAleer would get another sold-out game in the newly opened Fenway Park the next day.  McAleer’s argument that Wood could use another day of rest before coming back in game seven, if necessary, did not carry the kind of weight in 1912 that it would today.

Vaccaro further writes that although McAleer’s decision was made the night before game six, McAleer instructed Stahl not to inform his players until the next morning.  Meanwhile, Joe Wood’s brother placed heavy bets on the Red Sox on behalf of himself, Smokey Joe and many of their friends based on the understanding that Smokey Joe would be pitching.

O’Brien had pitched well in the third game of the series losing 2-1, but he got hammered for five runs in the first inning of game six, and the Red Sox went on to lose the game 5-2.

However, back in Boston for game seven, Wood pitched even worse, allowing six first inning runs, mostly on fastballs reportedly slower than batting practice pitches and right over the heart of the plate.  Despite having nothing whatsoever on the ball in game seven, Wood was well enough the next day to throw the three final innings of game eight and pick up his third win of the series.  Wood allowed an earned run on three hits and a walk but also struck out two Giants batters.

Vaccaro’s story is plausible if all of the facts set forth by Vaccaro are accurate and not just the unsubstantiated speculations of certain sportswriters back in 1912.  Other portions of the book make me wonder.

Unfortunately, like a lot of baseball histories, Vaccaro doesn’t do a particularly good job of getting basic facts right.  For example, the book refers to the “Irish Potato Famine of 1840” — the famine didn’t start until 1845.

Similarly, he refers to the National League’s Brooklyn franchise as the “Superbas” — according to both Baseball Reference and Baseball Almanac the Brooklyn team was primarily using the name “Dodgers” in 1912, having last used the “Superbas” name in 1910.

Finally, Vaccaro completely misstates the later retirements of two of the players heavily involved in the 1912 World Series drama.  Specifically, Vaccaro writes that Hugh Bedient, Boston’s second best pitcher in the 1912 series as a major league rookie, “called it quits at age 25” after pitching for the Federal League’s Buffalo Blues in 1915.

In fact, Bedient did no such thing. In 1916, he pitched for the Toledo team (then called the “Iron Men” — the “Mudhens” would come later) in the American Association, one of the three top minor leagues and a natural landing spot for Bedient after the Federal League folded.

Bedient did indeed retire prematurely, but that happened after six appearances for Toledo in 1917, not two years earlier as Vaccaro claims.  Bedient sat out the next three seasons but returned to professional baseball in 1921 at age 31.  He ultimately pitched five more seasons for the Toledo Mudhens, the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League and the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern League, all leagues that would be considered AA or AAA today, until he finally retired for good.

Vaccaro does the same thing with Fred Snodgrass, claiming he retired at age 28 after playing the 1916 season for the Boston Braves.  Snodgrass did, in fact, return to his home town Los Angeles in 1917, but not to go into business, at least not immediately.  Instead, he spent the summer of 1917 playing for the Pacific Coast League’s Vernon Tigers, where he was the team’s second best hitter.  Only after the 1917 season did Snodgrass retire from professional baseball to pursue business opportunities.

A book written in the last five years about professional baseball in 1912 should have a better idea of the relationship between the major and minor leagues in those days.  If a player had a bad year for a major league team and was sold or traded to an American Association, Pacific Coast League or Southern League team, it wasn’t anywhere near the big deal it is today, because players could continue to make good money playing in the high minors for as long as their talent held out.  In fact, most major league players of that era finished their careers in the minor leagues after their time in the majors was over.