History repeats itself. All good things come to an end. Cliché, cliché, cliché. It turns out that clichés and Jeff Francis fit together all too well. As his days as a major leaguer likely come to a close, there are some interesting similarities between Jeff Francis at age 32 as there were with Jeff Francis as a rookie 23-year-old. When the young Canadian first took the ball for the Colorado Rockies in August 2004 versus the Atlanta Braves he coughed up 3 home runs and 6 runs in 5 innings pitched and recorded a loss. The Denver Post has been reporting that Francis’ locker has been cleaned out and that he will indeed be the roster fatality that makes room for a much-anticipated Roy Oswalt‘s debut with the club. So then, not surprisingly, in his final game with the Rockies before being cast aside Francis gave up 3 home runs and 8 runs in 6 innings pitched and yes, he recorded a loss.
Glancing back across a lengthy career that spanned 9 years and 8 seasons you almost have to feel a little bit sorry for Jeff. He has amassed a career record of 69-73 (yawn) with a 4.93 ERA (yikes!) while displaying, at times, 5 different pitches that got him through 1230+ innings. Yet Francis had only one magical & psuedo-potential fulfilling season in 2007 when he won 17 games but still displayed a 4.22 ERA while leading the Rockies into the World Series. Two years later he sat the entire 2009 season with injuries. Now hold on a minute — Francis ranks among #1018 on the all-time pitching ballot, right behind Vern Bickford and Ruben Gomez! Wait, who? Yes, you can’t help but feel a little bit sad when you look back at Jeff’s career.
June 8, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jeff Francis (26) reacts to giving up a walk in the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Sure there were some shining moments as there are certain to be. Remember the 3 complete game gems he pitched — one against the almighty San Francisco Giants in 2007 where he scattered 6 hits across AT&T Park while not allowing a run? You couldn’t help but think, “Hey, he just might be a pitcher!”. And you can’t forget the 10 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings against the rival Dodgers, again coming during that memorable 2007 run. But more often than not things were pretty bland for Francis. He only recorded double-digit strikeouts that one time in his 216 career starts, and only pitched into the 8th inning 20 times (he averaged 5 IP). He allowed a home run in over half of his starts (110 games), including 4 home runs twice — both times against NL West rivals. At times, especially recently, he may as well have been throwing batting practice. Even his career Fielding Independent Pitching metric (FIP) is atrocious at 4.42 showing that Jeff Francis just plain and simple isn’t a very good pitcher.
Now I will not deny that Jeff Francis is a great guy. He is genuine, takes responsibility for his mistakes, and was the ultimate leader in the clubhouse. He is one of very few Rockies players that actually have a residence in the Denver area and you have to appreciate when an athlete you pour your hard-earned money into supports the community you live in. And I have to acknowledge that he was a key piece in the 2007 run to the World Series. For all of this, I say “Thanks Jeff”. Unfortunately that is where my praise begins and ends.
Parting ways with the old lefty was long, loooonnnngg overdue. It makes me slightly sick that the Rockies as an organization sunk $1.5 million into Francis for only 2 wins in 11 games this year. It makes me violently ill to know the Rockies gave Francis $9.5 million in 2009-2010 for only 4 wins and 104 innings pitched. And then I just about can’t live anymore when you pull all of this together and realize that the Rockies had the audacity to bring Francis and his high ERA, low velocity arm back to take more of the fan’s money! At some point I believe the Rockies’ fan base has to start holding the front office accountable for moves like this, and for wasting our time and money. In a year when pitching was and is the crux of our success we rode a washed-up pitcher for half of the year before we finally cut that emotional cord. I am sure someone has plenty of business reasons to hang onto Francis for so long but spare me, my heart doesn’t want to hear it. Happy Trails Jeff Francis, I wish you nothing but the best. Just please don’t bring your “best” to Coors Field anymore.