Many former major leagues used to go to Japan at the end of their careers (the Lee brothers, Warren Cromartie, Tuffy Rhodes) or in an effort to try and get it back (Cecil Fielder, Julio Franco). Since the Japanese leagues are considered major leagues, it isn't considered a step down to the minors by going and playing. Plus the money was pretty good.
A lot of current and former major leaguers have played in Mexico and the Caribbean winter leagues to get more experience, or to try and continue their career. Lately, a few (Karim Garcia and Runelvys Hernandez) have went to the Korean league.
Some of these guys go because they just love the game and want to play, and they're given a chance. Some go because of the money. Some for a chance to make it back to the big leagues. If the player is happy, that's all that matters to him. If he helps the team, that's all that matters to them.
But now, in the first instance I can find, a former major leaguer and World Series champion has gone to Europe to continue playing:
The youngest member of the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox is going yo pitch for REGGIO EMILIA in the 2009 Italian Baseball League season. The team announced on Monday on its website that they signed the 26-year-old left-hander Abe Alvarez. Between 2004 and 2006 he appeared in four big league games for the Red Sox and was the youngest player to receive a World Series Championship ring
Alvarez, a lefty reliever, only got into 4 games over 3 years in the majors, all with the Sox. He didn't pitch particularly well in the minors, getting released and spending time in the independent leagues.
The article doesn't give much reason why he's in Italy, or the terms of the contract. But I don't think we really need to know. Its baseball. You would go too.
And its not even the Olympics. How about that?
I think this is great. I don't think too many players will go to Europe to try and revive their careers. But getting some former, pro-quality players in the leagues can only help the competition.
For those who might want to quibble, this is league ball, not national team ball. I don't have an issue with this.
So, if anyone knows of any other former major leaguers who have played in Europe, please let me know.