Most Colorado Rockies fans have heard the news. Jeff Francis signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Royals. He will receive $2 million guaranteed, with incentives that can double his earnings.

It was inevitable.

The Rockies turned down the lefties option early in the offseason, but said that they would like to have him back. The only problem was that they never offered him more than a minor league contract.

While very few fans would argue that having Francis back makes the Rockies a better team in 2011, the news shouldn’t be easy to take for any fan of the team.

Keep in mind, this is the same Jeff Francis whose domination of the minor leagues helped Rockies fans through the 2003 and 2004 seasons in which the only debate at Coors Field was whether the Rockies would keep their loss total below 95. This is the same Francis who stepped into the ace role down the stretch in 2007 when the Rockies needed him most.

The fact that the Rockies were not willing to offer Francis a Major League deal speaks volumes about how they believe his surgically repaired shoulder is. After missing most of 2008, all of 2009 and a great deal of 2010, Francis still isn’t healthy enough to be depended on.

The harsh reality is, Francis’ days of being an ace are long behind him.

While his shoulder injury will mar what could have been a really good career, losing Francis is just another departure from the team that proved it was possible to win while playing 81 games at Coors Field.

He was the ace on a team that gave Rockies fans hope after spending years being mathematically eliminated by the first week of June. After all, Francis is the first pitcher in Rockies history to have two postseason wins. Until Ubaldo Jimenez dominated the mound in 2010, Francis’ 17 wins in 2007 were tied for the most in club history, but were by far the most important 17 wins.

No one will deny that Francis’ passion for the game was there. Even though his season was wiped out in ’08, the crafty lefty was seen in the home dugout during every single home game. He desperately wanted to be a part of the team. The name Jeff Francis will long be intertwined with the Rockies’ launch back to respectability.

Without Francis, the Rockies have no World Series run. They have no magical comeback story. So even though Francis’ best days were behind him, the Rockies and their fans are sad to see someone who made such a huge impact go.

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