Straus’ leadership will be missed in Texas

Joe Straus’ stunning decision not to run for re-election will be felt deeply across the state of Texas.

Through his five terms as Speaker of the House, Straus, R-San Antonio, was a model of political balance and integrity. He governed with maturity and vision, focusing on real issues, and fighting against divisive and unnecessary ones.

He focused on water security, improving public education, growing our universities and tackling the tough challenges of transportation, mental

across the state of Texas.

Through his five terms as Speaker of the House, Straus, R-San Antonio, was a model of political balance and integrity. He governed with maturity and vision, focusing on real issues, and fighting against divisive and unnecessary ones.

He focused on water security, improving public education, growing our universities and tackling the tough challenges of transportation, mental health care and improving Child Protective Services. With any luck, the next speaker will exemplify Straus-style leadership.

In this most recent legislative and special sessions, Straus received significant attention for his opposition against the so-called bathroom bill, which targeted and maligned transgender Texans. And he rightfully dismissed faux property tax reform, which would have done nothing to relieve property taxes but would have harmed cities and counties.

His critics wrongfully accused him of being a liberal — a reflection of how far right certain elements have moved. In reality, Straus is a lifelong member of the Republican Party who played a crucial role in building it in Texas.

Not a conservative? the Straus-led House has approved tough restrictions, defunded Planned Parenthood, passed a voter ID law and pushed conservative issues on many fronts. We’ve opposed many of these measures and still recognize that Straus was a balancing influence in state politics.

And he’s also not a career politician. He spent most of his adult life in business before taking office in 2005 through a special election. Four years later, he was elected House Speaker.

In a press conference, Straus said he wanted to leave office on his own terms. He wouldn’t rule out a future run for office, but he also expressed doubt he would be on the 2018 ballot (the clock is ticking). He left the door fairly open, but said he looked forward to speaking freely about the issues he most cares about for Texas.

When he does that, especially during this last year, the public has overwhelmingly supported him.

Where all of this goes is hard to say. There are few platforms in Texas as big as House Speaker. We can’t help but think Straus could be more effective in that role than on the outside looking in. But, as he said, five terms is a long time to be in one place.

The attacks would wear anyone down.

Our hope is the next House speaker governs with a similar measured maturity and focuses on issues that move Texas forward — as opposed to needless distractions that divide Texans.

Straus says he will be speaking up. We — and we hope a lot others — will be listening.

Yankees acquire left-hander James Paxton from Mariners for three prospects

The New York Yankees made a major addition to their starting rotation Monday, acquiring left-hander James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners for three players, including top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield.

Paxton, 30, struck out a career-high 208 batters last season on his way to compiling an 11-6 record and 3.76 ERA. In May, he tossed the sixth no-hitter in Mariners history when he blanked the Toronto Blue Jays in a 5-0 victory.

And if there’s any doubt about his ability to handle the spotlight in New York, just remember he hardly flinched when a bald eagle landed on his shoulder before a start in April.

The 6-4 native of Ladner, British Columbia, has battled injuries throughout his pro career, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance when healthy. Paxton posted a 41-26 record over six major league seasons and has struck out an average of 9.5 batters per nine innings.

The Yankees won 100 games last season, but finished second to the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox in the American League East. Bolstering the starting rotation has been one of their top offseason priorities — and Paxton gives them a solid No. 2 to slot between right-handers Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.

To get Paxton, the Yankees had to part with three players, including one of their top minor league arms.

Sheffield, 22, made his major-league debut in September, allowing three earned runs in three appearances. Before his promotion, he went 7-6 with a 2.48 ERA in 116 innings at Class AA and AAA. A first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians in 2014, Sheffield was acquired by the Yankees in a 2016 trade deadline deal for reliever Andrew Miller.

Also going to Seattle:

Right-handed pitcher Erik Swanson, 25, who went 8-2 with a 2.66 ERA across three minor league levels.

And outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, 23, who hit .299/.363/.546 at two Class A stops and led all Yankees minor leaguers in 2018 with 22 home runs.

Rams outlast Chiefs in highest-scoring ‘Monday Night Football’ game ever

That pretty much sums up the much-hyped Monday night matchup that, well, lived up to the hype as the Los Angeles Rams outscored the Kansas City Chiefs 54-51 in undoubtedly the most wildly entertaining NFL offensive explosion ever staged at the historic Los Angeles Coliseum.

This, folks, is what the NFL wants you to see.

Fourteen touchdowns. A combined 1,001 yards. More than 100 points, with the final tally representing the most in “Monday Night Football” history and third-highest total in any game. Eight lead changes. Two ties. Suspense. Signature moments galore. And two spectacular 400-yard passers – Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff – left standing at the end.

Mahomes threw for six touchdowns and 478 yards … and it still wasn’t enough. Not with three interceptions, including a pick-six, and two lost fumbles.

Then again, despite the turnovers, he still had a chance to win.

Goff, though, fired a 40-yard TD strike to Gerald Everett with 1:49 remaining – his fourth scoring pass – to provide the winning points.

And even that wasn’t a sure thing until the end.

Mahomes had two final chances to rally the Chiefs in the final two minutes, but each drive ended with interceptions on deep throws downfield. Marcus Peters intercepted Mahomes with 1:28 left, then Lamarcus Joyner sealed the outcome with a pick with 13 seconds remaining.

Here’s to hoping that you bet the “over.”

Shoot, the over/under projection of 64 points was eclipsed way back in the third quarter.

And when one of those high-flying offenses didn’t convert on third down, it just seemed plain weird.

So, too, was the fact that a defensive player, Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam, scored two touchdowns – one on an 11-yard fumble-return and the other on a 25-yard interception runback – in a game dominated by offense.

Then again, weird was a good thing in many ways in the first Monday night game in L.A. since 1979.

Three other things we learned or confirmed:

1. Mahomes is unflappable

Whenever it seemed like the Chiefs’ young gunslinger was poised to crack, he came back for more. Both times when Mahomes lost fumbles on strip-sacks, then again after throwing a pick-six, he responded by leading Kansas City on touchdown drives. And that was just one reflection of his resilience as the Chiefs trailed 13-0 early, then opened the fourth quarter in a 40-30 hole.

2. The “all-star” officiating crew clearly wanted a shootout

The ridiculous penalties against Kansas City defensive backs early in the game – especially a shoulder-to-shoulder unnecessary roughness call on an incompletion before the game’s first touchdown – set the tone. And the flags weren’t exactly flying both ways. By the end of the first quarter, the Chiefs were stung for 82 yards.

Not that some of the penalties weren’t deserved. But nor was the blatant miss of an incompletion to Tyler Higbee early in the third quarter – the ball bounced off the turf and into the hands of the Rams tight end as he rolled over during a fall – that boosted a go-ahead TD drive.

3. You can only hope to contain Aaron Donald

The Rams’ monster defensive tackle left his fingerprints all over the game – and Mahomes – while demonstrating how tough it will be for Khalil Mack to prevent him for repeating as the NFL’s defensive player of the year. Yes, there was some defense sprinkled within the offensive smorgasbord. After drawing a couple of holding penalties, No. 99 produced his first strip-sack of the game late in the second quarter to produce instant points. Ebukam picked up the loose football for an 11-yard walk-in TD return. Early in the third quarter, Donald smashed into Mahomes for a 16-yard sack-and-swat, recovered by linemate John Franklin-Myers to jump-start another TD drive.