Motorola announces the Moto X Pure — high-end specs, mid-tier price — and Moto G (3rd generation)

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Earlier today, Motorola introduced a couple new phones, the highlight of which was the Moto X Pure (dubbed Moto X Style outside the U.S.) — a device that provides high-end specs at a price lower than comparable flagship phones from other manufacturers. Due for release in September, the X Pure features a 5.7″ QHD LCD display, with 3 GB of RAM and internal storage options ranging from 16GB to 64GB, with microSD card support (up to 128GB).

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The device, powered by a Snapdragon 808 quad-core processor, will launch running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and come equipped with CDMA/GSM/LTE bands covering all of the major U.S. carriers, making the Moto X Pure compatible with all of the carriers, similar to Motorola’s Nexus 6 that was released last year. Trying to improve upon camera sensors that haven’t been up to par in recent years, Motorola has included a 21MP rear-facing camera with HDR and video stabilization and a 5MP front-facing camera with a wide-angle lens and flash.

One of the selling points Motorola focused on during its presentation today was battery life, claiming the 3,000mAh battery can last all day and, if you need to recharge it, the turbo charge capability can provide up to 10 additional hours of battery life from just a 15-minute charge. The phone also includes front-facing speakers and, as you would expect, includes NFC and the latest versions of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

As with previous generations of the Moto X, the X Pure supports customization via Motorola’s Moto Maker platform, offering up to 18 different backplate options — including wood — and seven accent colors, allowing for 126 options. As for price, the Moto X Pure will start at $399.99 for the 16GB model, and will be available to purchase, unlocked, at Motorola.com, Amazon and Best Buy.

Also announced at today’s event was the latest entry in Motorola’s budget line, the Moto G (3rd gen), which is available to purchase as of today at a starting price of $179. For that price, you get a 5″ display, 13MP camera, 2,470mAh (which also should last you all day, according to the company), water resistance, 4G LTE connectivity and Moto Maker customization. The Moto X Play — which has slightly lesser specs than the Moto X Pure and is not expected to be made available in the U.S. — was also announced.

Personally, the Moto X Pure is the first Motorola phone that interests me in the past several years. The specs are probably the best you’ll find at that price range, which is usually reserved for mid-tier devices as Apple and Samsung routinely price their flagships at $600-700 and up. If I was in the market for a new phone, the X Pure would certainly be near — if not at — the top of my list, but as my Galaxy Note 4 isn’t even a year old, I likely won’t be looking to get a new phone anytime soon.

Full specs and other information about the Moto X Pure can be found here; Moto G here; Moto X Play here.

Midway through the MLB season, recapping my preseason picks and looking ahead to the second half

We’re in the All-Star break, which is the unofficial halfway point of the MLB season so now’s a good time to check in with my preseason picks to see how I’m doing. My National League picks are looking pretty good. My American League picks? Not so much. Let’s dig into the details.

My division winners were the Orioles in the East, Indians in the Central and Mariners in the West; they’re currently in third, fourth and fourth place, respectively. The current division leaders are the surprising Yankees, the defending AL champion Royals and the Angels. My Wild Card picks before the season started were the Blue Jays and Royals. The Blue Jays currently sit in fourth place in the East and four games out of a Wild Card while the Royals, again, are atop the Central. The two teams currently leading the Wild Card race in the AL are two of the biggest surprises in the majors: the Twins and Astros.

Looking ahead at the second half of the season in the AL, the team currently in playoff positioning that I think is most likely to regress in the second half is the Twins. They’re basically middle of the pack in the majors in key stats in both offense and pitching. I think they’ve been lucky to have a 49-40 record at this point of the season. I expect them to fall back in the second half. I still like the Jays. They have one of the best offenses in the league, but their pitching isn’t good enough. If they can trade for a starting pitcher before the deadline, I still think they have a chance to get a Wild Card spot, if not pass the Yankees in the division.

I’m doing much better with my National League predictions than I am in the AL. I took the Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers to win their divisions — and that’s exactly what they’re doing at the midway point. I took the Pirates and Marlins to earn the two Wild Card spots in the NL. I’m half right there at this point, as the Pirates and Cubs — another team that’s surprising people this season — sit atop the NL Wild Card standings. The Marlins, meanwhile, have the third-worst record in the NL.

How are things looking for the second half? The defending World Series champion Giants are only two games back for the second Wild Card, and I think they have a good shot at ending up with one of the two Wild Cards at season’s end. They’ve had some injuries in the first half, notably with OF Hunter Pence, who has recently returned to the lineup, and if they can stay healthy the rest of the way, I think they have what it takes to improve enough to make the playoffs and try for a second consecutive World Series title.

a world series trophy

So what about my playoff predictions? I had the Dodgers beating the Orioles in the Fall Classic. Now, I’m not confident about either of those picks. The Cardinals look like they’re — by far — the best team in the majors and I’m not thinking they’ll represent the NL in the World Series, and the Royals look like they’re for real so they could go back to the World Series again this year. If that all-Missouri series happens, I think the Cardinals would come out victorious and win another World Series title.

MLB All-Star Game rosters announced, where’s A-Rod? Plus, my Final Vote picks

Major League Baseball announced the rosters for next week’s All-Star Game earlier in the week and, as usual, deserving players were snubbed. There was one major snub in particular in each league — Alex Rodriguez in the American League and defending Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in the National League. Let’s take a closer look at the rosters and snubs.

National League

Five of the eight players voted in as starters for the NL matched who I picked on my ballot, including OF Giancarlo Stanton, who has been replaced by Andrew McCutchen in the starting lineup due to injury an injury. I don’t really have any qualms with who won the votes in the NL. Although I voted for 3B Nolan Arenado, it’s good to see Todd Frazier get the nod at the position since the game is being played in his home ballpark. As far as the reserves go, 2B DJ LeMahieu is an interesting choice given he’s not a big-name player, but he’s hitting .298 with a few home runs so I wouldn’t call it an egregious selection. With the pitchers named to the roster, manager Bruce Bochy likely no matter who he picks to start the game, but I’m sticking with my vote for Max Scherzer from a couple weeks ago.

Now onto the controversy with Kershaw being left off the roster. He’s not having the best season of his career, but a 3.08 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 114 innings certainly speaks to him deserving a spot on the roster. And if LaMahieu isn’t a big name, Kershaw is definitely among the biggest names in baseball. If I had to pick a pitcher to to take off the roster to add Kershaw, it would be Madison Bumgarner. Other than his record — which is greatly affected by the rest of the team — his stats aren’t as good as Kershaw’s.

American League

During the voting, it looked like there could be as many as seven Kansas City Royals in the starting lineup. In the end, only four made it and, thankfully, 2B Omar Infante was not one of them. Six of the nine starters match what I picked on my ballot, including 1B Miguel Cabrera, who is now on the DL and has been replaced in the lineup by Albert Pujols. Again, no real arguments with who got voted in, although I would’ve liked to have seen Stephen Vogt get he nod at catcher. I definitely think he deserves it based on his stats, so I’m glad he’s at least a reserve. On my ballot a couple weeks ago, I threw my support behind Chris Sale to get the start, but now I’m leaning more toward Dallas Keuchel. Sale’s strikeout numbers were what caused me to pick him initially, but looking at it again, I think Keuchel is having the better season and should get the start.

So, Brock Holt is an all-star but A-Rod isn’t. Holt is hitting .295 but doesn’t have much run production to show for it, with only 2 home runs and 21 RBI on the season. He is definitely who I would take off the roster to make room for A-Rod, who is hitting .284 with 16 home runs and 47 RBI after being suspended for all of last season. Clearly, his fellow players and manager Ned Yost decided they didn’t want to have him on the team. A-Rod’s not even one of the five candidates in the Final Vote for the AL.

Final Vote

The five final vote candidates in the NL are SP Johnny Cueto, RP Jeurys Familia, Kershaw, SP Carlos Martinez and SS Troy Tulowitzki. Not surprisingly, given what I said about Kershaw above, he is getting my vote here, and I think he’ll likely win the fan vote. On the AL side, the candidates are SS Xander Bogaerts, OF Yoenis Cespedes, 2B Brian Dozier, OF Brett Gardner and 3B Mike Moustakas. Bogaerts was my pick at shortstop on my ballot, but I’m going to go with Dozier given the options here. Of course, given how the original voting went, I expect Royals fans to support their man and get Moustakas voted in.

My All-Star Game ballot for the National League

The all-star voting in the National League isn’t as controversial as it is in the American League so I expect my picks to line up better with the current leaders, based on the latest results released by Major League Baseball on Tuesday. So here’s my ballot for the National League all-stars.

1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
I don’t think there’s much of an argument here. Entering Sunday, Goldschmidt has a .358 average with 19 HR and 55 RBI. He’s been one of the best hitters in the majors this season — if not the best — and clearly deserves to get the start in the All-Star Game. And most voters seem to agree, as he leads the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez by nearly 1 million votes in the ballloting.

2B: Yunel Escobar, Washington Nationals
I think Escobar is having the best all-around season among the second-base candidates on the National League ballot — although he’s been playing third base this season — so I voted for him. He’s in fifth place in the balloting, though, with the Marlins’ Dee Gordon leading the pack, more than 300,000 votes ahead of the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong in second place. Gordon is hitting .352 on the season, but that is largely due to the hot start he had this season; he’s hitting just .280 over the last month. He’s known for his speed so doesn’t provide any power for his team; he’s homerless this year and has just 17 RBI on the season. Escobar, on the other hand, has been heating up as the season progresses; he’s hitting .327 in the last month, including a .362 average in his last 15 games. I think Wong is more deserving than Gordon, but I still go with Escobar on my ballot.

SS: Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals
Peralta is putting up some of the best offensive numbers of his career so far this season, with a line of .312/10/39, making him most deserving of getting the nod as the starter for the National League. He has more than a 1 million vote lead over Brandon Crawford, who’s having a breakout season for the defending champion Giants, hitting .282/9/42. It was a close call between the two, but Peralta has the slight edge for me with the better batting average.

3B: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
The Cubs’ Kris Bryant has been one of the most-talked-about players this season — and he’s having a good rookie season — but I went with Arenado at the position. Bryant famously spent the first couple weeks of the season at Triple-A, which hurts his case to be the starting third baseman in my opinion. As far as the voting goes, Arenado sits in fourth place, with Cardinal fans voting for Matt Carpenter, who has more than double the votes that Bryant, in second place has. Carpenter’s .295/8/33 line doesn’t hold up to Arenado’s .281/16/53 for me. Despite a slightly better average for Carpenter, Arenado’s home run and RBI totals give him the edge at the position.

C: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Posey leads Yadier Molina in the voting by just 400,000 votes, but he’s putting up much better offensive numbers than the St. Louis catcher. As is usually the case, Posey is one of the best offensive catchers in the game, with a .295, 10 HR and 41 RBI. Molina has the same average, but just 2 home runs and 24 RBI, so I think it’s hard to make the case for voting for him over Posey.

OF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals; Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates; Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Harper and Stanton are no-brainers to start in the outfield, but Marte is admittedly not a common pick. My third outfielder was between him and teammate Andrew McCutchen, who currently sits in fifth place in the voting. They have similar numbers, but I gave the slight edge to Marte — who’s in 15th place according to the latest update — because McCutchen’s been there before and Marte is having a breakout year. Somehow, Stanton — who has 25 HR and 64 RBI — currently isn’t slated to start the game, currently fourth in the voting. The top three, according to the latest update, are Harper, Matt Holliday and Nori Aoki. Aoki only has about 70,000 more votes than Stanton. so he could still slip past third place. Aoki’s hitting .317 so he’s not having a bad year, but Stanton certainly deserves to start ahead of Aoki. I suspect Aoki is getting a bump in voting from the Royal fans stuffing the ballot boxes, as he is a former Royal. As for Holliday, he’s hitting .303/3/26, which isn’t exactly All-Star starter numbers, but he’s a Cardinal and Cardinal fans are voting heavily like the Royals fans are in the AL.

SP: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
While starting pitcher isn’t part of the fan ballot, I’ll include who I would vote for — the Nationals’ Scherzer. His last two games have been spectacular — a one-hit, 16 strikeout complete game followed by a no-hitter that would have been a perfect game if not for a HBP in the bottom of the ninth. But he is deserving based on all 14 starts he has made this season; he has a 1.76 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 102.1 innings. If that’s not worthy of starting the All-Star Game, I don’t know what is.

So there’s my National League all-star ballot. Cardinal fans seem to be stuffing the ballot boxes a bit — but not to the extent that Roual fans are — and I’m going with one Cardinal on my ballot, as I did with the Royals on my AL ballot. Voting closes at the end of the day on July 2, and the final results are scheduled to be announced on July 5, so there’s still time to get deserving guys like Stanton in the starting lineup in Cincinnati on July 14.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

My All-Star Game ballot for the American League, how many Royals make the cut?

There’s been some controversy with this year’s all-star voting in the American League, with eight Royals currently leading their positions as of the most recent results released by Major League Baseball on Monday — including Omar Infante, who’s hitting .229 on the season entering Sunday, leading at 2B. The Royals do have the best record in the AL, but how many of their players actually deserve to start in the All-Star Game? Here’s my ballot:

1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Cabrera is having a typical Miguel Cabrera season, hitting .342 with 15 HR and 51 RBI, but is nearly 500,000 votes shy of the Royals’ Eric Hosmer in all-star voting. Hosmer is having a fine season, hitting .296 with 8 HR and 38 RBI, but those numbers don’t compare to what Cabrera is doing. I don’t have a problem with Hosmer making the team as a reserve, but Cabrera should be the starting first basemen for the AL in Cincinnati on July 14.

2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
The choice isn’t as clear-cut at this position as it was at first base, but it’s clearly not Infante. The defending MLB batting champ, Altuve is hitting .287, which is below his career average, with a handful of home runs and 17 steals. He’s one of the spark plugs of the Astros’ offense, being one of the few players on the roster who hits for a good average, and with his speed and baserunning ability, when he gets on base, he is able to manufacture runs. That helps put him ahead of Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis — who’s currently third in the voting — on my ballot. Yet Altuve sits 300,000 votes behind Infante.

SS: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
There’s no breakout star this season at shortstop — not surprising since it’s not typically a strong offensive position — and Derek Jeter’s retirement has opened up the voting at the position. I’m going with what I think is a bit of an off-the-beaten-path pick with Bogaerts, who isn’t even in the top five in the voting. I was tempted to go with either Toronto’s Jose Reyes or the Tigers’ Jose Iglesias, but Reyes has missed time with an injury and beyond his .323 average, Iglesias doesn’t do much offensively, with just 1 HR and 9 RBI on the season. Naturally, the Royals’ Alcides Escobar leads the pack — nearly 3 million more votes than second-place Iglesias — but his slash line of .275/2/26 puts him behind Bogaerts’ .285/3/27 for me.

3B: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
Donaldson is having an impressive offensive season in his first season north of the border, hitting .303 with 17 HR and 46 RBI. He’s on pace to set new career highs in home runs and RBI, while he has bounced back nicely after hitting just .255 for the A’s in 2014. Donaldson needs to get more support from Canadians if he wants to get the starting nod at third because he trails Mike Moustakas — of the Royals, of course — by more than 1.6 million votes. Moustakas is hitting .325, but with 6 HR and 27 RBI, his overall production doesn’t match up with what Donaldson has done this season.

C: Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics
How can you note vote for Vogt? He’s hitting .293, with 13 HR and 51 RBI. Those are good numbers at this point of the season for any position, especially catcher. His 13 homers and 51 RBI in 67 games this season match his career totals in both categories prior to this year. He’s having a breakout season in his first full year in the majors and deserves to be behind the plate in the first inning of the All-Star Game. But he’s not likely to get that chance, sitting about 4 million votes shy of Kansas City backstop Salvador Perez, who’s having a good year himself, but his line of .280/11/30 puts him behind Vogt for me.

DH: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners
This was a tough one for me to choose between Cruz or Alex Rodriguez, who’s having a surprisingly strong season for the Yankees. But I went with the straight-up numbers, and that gives Cruz the edge over A-Rod at .315/19/43 vs. .283/14/40. Both are in the top five in voting — Cruz is second, Rodriguez fifth — but the Royals’ Kendrys Morales sits atop the DH vote, leading Cruz by about half-a-million votes. At .286/8/45, Morales is up there with his stats, just not good enough compared to the numbers Cruz has put up.

OF: Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals; Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles; Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
And we finally get to the first (and only) Royal on my ballot, Cain, as one of the three outfielders I picked. I think he’s worthy — at .291, 6 HR and 30 RBI — in a season when there aren’t as many standouts in the outfield as there are in other years. Jones is hitting .298/10/36 for Baltimore, earning a spot in my starting outfield, as he’s having one of his best offensive seasons in the majors. And then there’s Trout, who is having one of his typical seasons, hitting .301 with 18 HR and 41 RBI, making him a shoo-in to start in the game — although he’s second to Cain in voting, more than 600,00 votes behind. Jones currently sits in fifth place — on the outside looking in — behind Alex Gordon (.270/8/31) and Alex Rios (.236/1/9) — both Royals, not surprisingly — who sit third and fourth, respectively, in the outfield vote. At more than 2 million votes behind Gordon, Jones likely isn’t going to get the start.

SP: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
While starting pitcher isn’t part of the fan ballot, I’ll include who I would vote for — White Sox ace Sale. He may not have the best record among pitchers — the result of being on a bad team — but he is having an impressive season, with 119 strikeouts and a 2.74 ERA in his first 13 starts. He has made history in his last five starts, tying the record for most consecutive starts (since 1900) with at least 12 Ks, matching the mark set by a couple of Hall of Famers, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson (both officially entering the Hall next month as members of the Class of 2015).

So there you have it, my all-star ballot for the American League (my NL ballot can found here). It doesn’t match up well with where the latest voting update stands, but this list is full of more deserving players than most of the Royals who currently lead at their positions, and would be a better team to put on the field in Cincinnati. Voting closes at the end of the day on July 2, and the final results are scheduled to be announced on July 5, so there’s still time to get deserving guys like Cabrera and Vogt the starting spots that they deserve.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

One year later …

Today marks a year since I started this blog with my a short first post. Since then, I’ve written 89 posts — mostly about sports and technology, with some other random posts mixed in as well. When I started the blog, I wasn’t sure how long I would keep up with it, but it’s still going after 365 days. You can check out all of my posts here. And here’s to another year of the blog, including in the coming weeks a look at how my MLB predictions are looking around the halfway point of the season and a second year of 32 in 32ish, previewing all 32 NFL teams leading up to the season opener in September.

Can he do it? American Pharoah  goes for Triple Crown at Belmont 

If American Pharoah can beat the eight-horse field, he’ll be the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown. Thirteen horses  since then have gone to Belmont with the chance to take that honor and all have failed. Will this year be any different? No, I don’t think it will be different. I’m going to go with Todd  Pletcher’s  Materiality to win the race, American Pharoah to place, and Frosted to show. I think the Triple Crown drought continues for another year.