By Marc Campos

Challenge, Maps, Conspiracy, Needed Break, Lance's Tumble, All Star

There was a very telling and detailed editorial in yesterday's Chronicle about the current state of the Houston Police Department and the rising murder rate in Houston. Here's the last paragraph of the editorial:

"When Mayor White took office, he inherited a staffing problem bequeathed by his predecessor. If he fails to reinforce the Police Department and the murder rate continues to rise, he will soon make that problem his own."

Don't they call this throwing down the gauntlet?

State Dems are supposed to turn in the new congressional redistricting maps this week. Let's hope they turn in something that the judges will accept. Keep your fingers crossed.

Move over Elvis. Once folks found out that Kenny Boy was being cremated, they decided the fix was in. The conspiracy folks think he cashed in on his connections and is in the ultimate safe house that only one or two people (at most) know about. I'll give it 90 days before some tabloid screams at us with a headline that says Kenny Boy was seen having a margarita at a remote Mexican village.

The Major League All-Star Game break is certainly welcome for our Astros. The last two games were like a bad roller coaster ride.

Last night I was at the game with My Best Friend and The Dean. We sat in the fancy-dancy-all-you-can-eat seats. (I gained a few extra pounds - what am I doing eating pecan pie at a baseball game?) We had plenty of time to discuss what is wrong with the 'Stros.

The most obvious, Brad Lidge can't close. So he's not a "closer." That's not good.

The problem is, if you put Dan Wheeler in the "closer" role, is Brad Lidge forever mentally damaged goods? Saturday afternoon, after having a two run lead with two outs and nobody on, Lidge blows the save opportunity and is roundly booed by Astro fans. Not good.

Base running 101. Last night, Jason Lane is obviously confused about when to tag up on a fly ball and when he finally figures it out, he trips and does not advance. In the bottom of the ninth, with the winning run on base, Eric Munson gets picked off at first base. Then in the 11th inning, Roy O. pinch hits, slaps one down the line, but forgets to touch first base - out, errr, ouch!

We have four players that were in the opening day lineup now hitting under .240 - they all started last night.

You know things are not right when Roy O. has to come in and pitch the 10th inning Saturday afternoon and gives up a dinger to Albert Pujols. They better spend some time over the next three days trying to figure out how to come back and play solid ball.

If the Astros do end up doing something special and if Lance Berkman is a big reason why, you can thank Commentary (sort of). Berkman made a great catch on a foul ball Friday night and his momentum had him tumble into the stands right in front of me - I helped break his fall - possibly preventing a season ending injury. The play made the top ten ESPN Sports Center plays Friday night. You can still check out the video stream on the play if you go to the Astros' website. As I was helping him back on his feet, I slipped my hand in his back pocket and lifted his batting gloves - hey, I was deserving of a souvenir!

Speaking of My Best Friend, his son's little league baseball career came to an end last week. His little league all star team was runner up in the district competition. My Best Friend's son had outstanding pitching performances and had a couple of dingers in district competition. Props to Matt!

July 10, 2006, 9:00AM

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