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The Rockies’ other Hall of Famer in 2021

Colorado Rockies news and links for Sunday, January 9, 2022

One of the highlights of 2021 for Rockies fans was undoubtedly the long-awaited induction of Larry Walker into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. After 10 long years on the voting ballot, Walker finally cracked the 75% of votes needed in 2020, his final year on the ballot. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the induction ceremony was delayed several times until it finally happened in September 2021. We were finally able to celebrate Walker and career achievements and Colorado rejoiced. However, he wasn’t the only former Rockie that was inducted into a Hall of Fame in 2021.

2021 saw former Rockie pitcher and native of British Columbia, Canada, Jeff Francis get inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020. Francis spent the majority of his career in Colorado and his accomplishments as a big-league pitcher earned him a spot where other British Columbia athletes, including Walker himself, have been enshrined.

The early years

Pitching from an early age, Francis grew and developed into one of Canada’s premier prospects for Major League Baseball while playing for the University of British Columbia, even appearing on the cover of Baseball America with fellow Canadian Adam Loewen. They would both be selected in the first round of the 2002 MLB draft with Loewen going fourth overall to the Orioles and Francis going ninth to the Colorado Rockies. Their selections remain the highest draft selections for Canadian-born players in MLB history.

From there, Francis rose quickly through the Rockies farm system and found himself in Double-A Tulsa at the start of 2004. Things started to really take off for Francis when he posted a 13-1 record with a 1.98 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 113 23 innings of work. He excelled in his promotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, posting a 2.85 ERA in 41 innings for the Sky Sox. His performance in 2004 resulted in both Baseball America and USA Today naming him the Minor League Player of the Year, becoming the first Rockie to win either award and just the fourth player in baseball history to be honored by both publications in the same year.

The big-league years

All the success and notoriety resulted in Francis earning a call-up to the Rockies for his debut on August 25, 2004, against the Atlanta Braves. Francis pitched into the sixth inning but allowed six runs on six hits along with three home runs. Chipper Jones hit two of them to drive in five runs, but Francis did manage eight punchouts in the game. He would struggle in his second start but would earn his first win in his third start after tossing 5 13 shutout innings against the San Diego Padres. Francis finished the year with a 3–2 record, with a 5.16 ERA.

From there, Francis would find a groove in the Rockies rotation beginning in 2005. He posted a 14-12 record despite a 5.68 ERA, but his ability to toss a lot of innings helped him become a valuable piece of the rotation. He ended up finishing sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting that year.

2006 saw Francis develop even more as a major league starter when he had a 13-11 record with a career-best 4.16 ERA in 32 starts. His best start came on July 24, 2006, when he tossed a complete-game two-hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals at Coors Field on 129 pitches. He carried a perfect game into the sixth inning before allowing a broken-bat single. It was more evidence of the full potential that rested in Francis and the following year would prove that fact.

The 2007 year

I still have a sweater from 2007 that features several of the key Rockies players and smack dab in the center is Jeff Francis, and for good reason. Francis had a career year when he won 17 games and had 165 strikeouts in 215 13 innings. He also posted a 4.22 ERA and became the true ace of the team and helped lead them to that World Series berth.

On October 3, 2007, Francis became the first Canadian starting pitcher to win a postseason game when he defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the first game of the NLDS, allowing two runs on four hits in six innings of work. He would breeze past the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS, allowing one run on seven hits in 7 13 innings, and become the second Canadian starting pitcher to start a World Series game. Despite the end result of the World Series that year, Francis earned a ninth-place finish in the National League Cy Young Award voting and etched a name for himself in Rockies history.

The latter years

Unfortunately, Francis began to decline after the 2007 season as a result of injuries. He pitched through soreness in 2008, posting a 4-10 record with a 5.01 ERA, and underwent surgery that cost him the entirety of the 2009 season. He would return to pitch 20 games for the Rockies in 2010, going 4-6 with a 5.00 ERA, and become a free agent after the season.

Francis would spend the 2011 season with the Kansas City Royals in another down year but still provided a reliable arm to pitched 31 starts. However, after a brief stint in the Reds organization in 2012, Francis returned to a struggling, injury plagued Rockies team where he put in a quality season. In 24 starts, Francis posted a 5.58 ERA with a 4.27 FIP in 113 innings, and also had the opportunity to be the veteran mentor for the younger arms on the club. He would sign on for one more year in Colorado, but 2013 was a forgettable year for Francis as he split time between the rotation and the bullpen. He would end his Rockies career going 64-62 with a 4.96 ERA, 742 strikeouts, and 333 walks in 1066 innings.

He bounced around several teams in 2014 and spent 2015 with the Toronto Blue Jays before hanging it up, but Francis will always be remembered for the dominant stretch and potential he showed while in Colorado. He was the overlooked player because instead of pure velocity, he was a master of deception and control, and would find a way to fool his opponent at the plate.

His induction into the BC Sports Hall of Fame last year is a tremendous honor that Rockies fans should take note of and celebrate. Francis still remains one of my all-time favorite Rockies pitchers because in my eyes he was an important piece in the development of Colorado’s pitching philosophies, and his place on the many categories of Rockies pitching leaders, and that makes him a Hall of Famer for British Columbia as well as the Rockies.

(To read more about Francis’s induction and baseball life story, check out this article)

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