Now they're dipping into the players with little or no postseason pedigree in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform. That's less a reflection on Carlos Delgado, who on Sunday was given a justly deserved place on the Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre, as it is a historical fact.
There hasn't been a postseason game played by the organization since Joe Carter touched 'em all in 1993. There won't be one in 2013, either. Delgado is the Roy Halladay of Blue Jays position players: someone to build a franchise around, signed or drafted or developed by the organization – one of our own – who had to go elsewhere for his playoff experience.
And on a day when the massively disappointing Blue Jays fell to 45-52 with a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays that capped off a three-game sweep by the visitors – with a Blue Jays starting lineup that included one player (Adam Lind) drafted and developed from within – it was difficult to suppress concerns about an organization that sacrificed so much of its minor-league talent this past winter in order to win now.
The list of home-grown position players of consequence since Delgado is painfully short. And, who are the dominant home-grown pitchers post-Halladay? Ricky Romero? Casey Janssen?
It was all good fun in the winter when general manager Alex Anthopoulos added player after player in a bold bid to wrest the team out of a torpor that was highlighted by the defection of manager John Farrell to the Boston Red Sox. Suddenly, everybody was saying nice things about the Blue Jays. Instead, it's become the year of Munenori Kawasaki for a team of players brought in from other organizations, some of whom (Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to begin with) view their return as hardly a given, others such as Jose Reyes on multiyear contracts.
"This isn't a team built for a singular year," starter R.A. Dickey said Sunday, after giving up three home runs that left him one away from his total allowed last season (24). "It's something we need to figure out. We need to make a push of some kind."
The sad truth is that the Blue Jays have simply thrown away the first year of a three-year window of opportunity, with few young starlets on the horizon. Another year of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion flushed down the toilet. A tremendous season from a bullpen full of pitchers at least a few of whom will likely regress in 2014 because of workload. It's an older, experienced core and youth is not always going to be served.
Compare that to the eternally youthful Rays.
After Chris Archer's seven innings the Rays are now 9-4 (2.60) in games started by rookies this season and in 182 starts by rookies since 2009 are 76-55 (3.64) and not all of them have been first picks overall.
Delgado was trademark gracious in his speech on a gloriously sun-drenched day in front of 41,247 at the Rogers Centre, thanking both teams for their patience and referring to the Blue Jays as "Gibby and the kids."
Would that were true. The Blue Jays are a team of guys in their late 20s and 30s, built to win now. Their supposed marquee young player is Brett Lawrie, who was called up earlier this season in what the organization admits was a rushed decision after a spring-time injury. Then, the Jays called him up before the all-star break after only a few games at second base, putting him back at third on Sunday after his throwing error led to a loss on Saturday and resulted in some in a sellout crowd chanting Kawasaki's name.
"I said he'd play at second and third," manager John Gibbons said. "We're not committed to anything defensively. If we didn't think he could be a good second baseman, we wouldn't do it."
Lawrie was booed again Sunday when he popped up on the second pitch with the bases loaded to end the sixth. The Blue Jays are in last place, and now their best young player has regressed to the point where it's permissible to wonder whether he needs a more dramatic change of scenery than merely a position switch.
Delgado's day in the sun reminded Blue Jays fans of many, many things – including opportunity lost, as well as just how rare excellence has been in these parts this season.