Unlike Last Season, Early Schedule Will Challenge Cubs In 2017

The celebration has ended, the 108 year drought is over, and baseball on Chicago’s North Side should return to normal. In other words, fans of the Cubs can go back to worrying.

Several big concerns face them as they look toward the 2017 season, in addition to the nearly impossible task of topping the World Series Championship they earned in October. No team has won the Fall Classic back to back in this century, although a much shorter span than the Cubs endured between titles.

That trip to the World Series was made easier by the early schedule, an arrangement the Cubs will not enjoy next April. Chicago did not play a winning team until April 18 against the Cardinals, which was their fifth series of the season. The Cubs did not play another winning team until May 2, when they played the Pirates. Spending the first month against the likes of Cincinnati, Arizona, Atlanta, and Milwaukee would provide nearly any team with the confidence needed to carry them through the most important stretch of the season. To emphasize just how important a hot start is, examine the National League from last season.

All four of the teams who reached the Division Series posted winning percentages over.700 during the first week of 2016, led by the Cubs and Nationals winning eight of their first nine games. The Giants were victorious in six of their first eight, and the Dodgers won seven of their first ten.

The advantage of opening against non-contenders will not be available to the Cubs in 2017, when the early part of their schedule features matchups against the only two teams that had winning records against Chicago last year. They open in St. Louis on April 2nd, a Sunday night game between the two rivals that will be broadcast on national television.

What could make that initial series even more troubling for the Cubs is the strong possibility that one of their most exciting players from last year will be playing for the opposing team. Center fielder Dexter Fowler, Chicago’s spark plug at the top of the batting order, is a free agent. Many baseball writers have projected St. Louis as the most likely team to sign Fowler. After the series in St. Louis, the Cubs must play the team that nearly eliminated them in the NLCS. The Dodgers, who won both of their regular season series against the Cubs in 2016, have the opportunity to avenge their playoff loss on the opening weekend in April.

The hot start Chicago used to build momentum for their World Series run last year is far less likely to befall them in 2017, simply because of the competition. Instead of opening against last place clubs like San Diego and Cincinnati, the Cubs will be tested right out of the chute by teams expecting to be contenders.

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A Colour Forecast For Spring 2017

Forget the monochrome look, forget restraint. One of the strong trends that we can look forward to in spring 2017 is vibrant colour. Think wacky, age of Aquarius style psychedelia. Many of the looks that will come to the fore in spring of next year are going to be a riot of colour. This is great for those of us who love vibrant shades and are not afraid to stand out from the crowd, though perhaps not so good for shrinking violets or those with a more muted aesthetic.

Tie dye is back and there is something of a resurgence of the hippie fashion aesthetic. For Resort, designers showed a range of tie-dye clothing. Both inner and outerwear items were shown and there was plenty of colour on display, much of it in bold, rich tones that are all about the character and the playful wackiness. Spring summer 2017 could be the time to revisit the Summer of Love. But this psychedelia has a sort of contemporary edge, with bold shapes, geometric designs and a strong line in global multiculturalism that reflects our more connected modern age. The way to wear this multi-coloured extravaganza is definitely to give it some gusto, but also a bit of an edge. Think whimsy but with a slightly harder urban slant.

The key to looking up to date and not like you have been lost and wandering on the hippie trail since the 60s is to choose pieces with a more modern shape when going for rainbow coloured clothes. Mismatched patterns and quirky combos will edge this look into another spring summer 2017 look – the chic geek. The idea is that pretty much anything goes and you should let your freak flag fly, showing your own unusual and unique personality through the way you dress.

This colour extravaganza borrows not only from the pschedelia of the 1960s but also from the colourful aesthetic of Tibet, its woven fabrics, strong patterns and bright colours, all with a slightly spiritual bent. There is also a large dose of inspiration taken from Cuba, a nation opening to the US for the first time in over fifty years and one with a strong culture and tropical aesthetic. Colour inspiration is also taken from the northern Californian coast, rich mid-tone blues and beachy hues mingle in with brighter tropical colours. No matter where you look, the spring summer 2017 trends are all about colour. Developing a really good colour sense and knowing which colours will suit you is the key to looking good and finding your own perfect look for the coming seasons.

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National League Teams Already Have DH, So Why Wait?

After nearly fifty years, the experiment will finally be recognized as a success. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has hinted that the designated hitter, which the New York Times once called a “gimmick,” will be used in the National League.

It was in 1973 that teams in the Junior Circuit elected to have another player hit for the pitcher, a concept that most considered a short term effort to increase offense. History was made that spring when Ron Bloomberg stepped to the plate for the Yankees to become the first DH ever.

The DH quickly became a valuable tool for American League clubs, who went on to win five of the next seven World Series. Although the DH was not used during the Fall Classic, one must admit that it certainly proved advantageous in several respects during the season.

Because they did not have to bat, the American League pitchers were better rested with fewer bumps and bruises than their National League counterparts. The A.L. managers had happier players, since each team had nine starters and thus increased playing time for everybody.

Now that the Commissioner has broached the idea of the DH across the board, players on the National League teams can look forward to similar happiness. Manfred declared that the DH in the National League could come as early as the 2017 season. bolder move would be to institute the DH this year, an idea which would intensify the season as well as increase what has been an embarrassing lack of offense over the past half decade. This would be particularly welcome now, since almost half of the teams in the N.L. find themselves in complete rebuilding mode.

Not only would using the DH help these clubs compete, but it would also increase fan interest during the rebuild. Most clubs already have players who fit the DH mold perfectly, and here is the list of those sluggers.

Braves: Nick Swisher

The veteran has been a clutch hitter with decent power and pop throughout his career, but he currently has no spot in Atlanta’s regular lineup.

Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter

Having Lucroy in the lineup without having to catch every day would certainly increase his production and career. He has already had experience at first, so he could occasionally allow Carter to get a defensive rest without losing his turn in the order.

Cardinals: Matt Adams

Adams would be the perfect DH, especially against right handers. A bonus for St. Louis would be using Yadier Molina as the DH against lefties, thereby preserving his health for a postseason run.

Cubs: Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler

Schwarber’s struggles in left were apparent in the playoffs last year, as he had been catcher for most of his career. With the DH in play, he could still catch on occasion and allow Soler to rest defensively.

Diamondbacks: Yasmany Tomas

The International free agent still has no true defensive home after an entire year in Arizona. He would be the perfect fit as DH, almost the Big Papi of the N.L.

Dodgers: Andre Ethier

Instead of trying to trade Ethier, as they have done for the past few winters, Los Angeles could have his quality bat in the lineup every day.

Giants: Buster Posey and Brandon Belt

The former Most Valuable Player and star catcher has already suffered several significant injuries behind the plate, so he has been used occasionally at first. Providing San Francisco with the option of the DH would help Posey’s production and lengthen his career, while allowing Belt more opportunities to spell the outfielders.

Marlins: Ichiro Suzuki

Another former M.V.P., Suzuki is still one of the most exciting players around. Seeing him bat every day would be a good reason for Miami fans to start coming to games. Mets: Wilmer Flores

Currently the fan favorite has no regular position, and he has enough power to warrant a role as the club’s DH.

Nationals: Clint Robinson

He is too good of a hitter to be a backup outfielder/first baseman, so Washington could really benefit from the implementation of the DH.

Padres: John Jay

He was acquired over the winter to be a backup outfielder, but a DH role could allow Jay to be a good veteran presence as San Diego undergoes a rebuilding year.

Phillies: Darrin Ruff

There is already controversy about Ruf taking playing time away from veteran All-Star Ryan Howard, a problem which the N.L. DH would immediately quell.

Pirates: Michael Morse

Had the DH come last year, the Pirates would probably have kept Pedro Alvarez. Nevertheless, Morse could fill a similar role in 2016.

Reds: Devan Mesoraco

Any doubt whether the catcher can fully recover from surgery to be an effective backstop, a situation that would leave Cincinnati without the All-Star’s valuable bat.

Rockies: Mark Reynolds

Reynolds, even though listed as a corner infielder, has always been the N.L.’s version of a DH. An edict from Manfred would simply make it official.

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Five Former All-Stars Who Need To Have Comeback Years in 2017

St. Louis did to Chicago what the Cubs did to the Cardinals during last year’s off season, signing a valuable part of their outfield to a free agent contract. In 2015 Jason Heyward went from the Cardinals to the Cubs, where he received a World Series ring.

This year, the Cardinals returned the favor, signing Dexter Fowler to a free agent deal. Fowler served as a spark at the lead off spot for the Cubs, as well as providing near Gold Glove defense in center field.

St. Louis hopes the overall season turns out as well as 2016 did for Heyward and the Cubs, who won their first Fall Classic in over one hundred years. In order for that to happen, the Cardinals will have to get better individual results from Fowler than the Cubs did from Heyward. Although he remained a top notch defensive right fielder, Heyward’s offensive numbers were disappointing. He struggled so much that manager Joe Madden did not even start him in several World Series games against the Indians.

The Cubs are hoping Heyward has a comeback season in 2017, as are a dozen or so other players. Several of them were mentioned in an article by David Schoenfield at ESPN.com on December 6,2016, a list including Arizona pitcher Zack Greinke, Boston infielder Pablo Sandoval, and Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

Omitted from that list are five other players who are hoping to bounce back after a down year, or in some cases, back to back down years. Here are five other prominent players who need to have comeback years in 2017.

Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins

The former American League Most Valuable Player has had two sub par years in a row, even though he still leads the Twins in quality at bats. Mauer’s batting averages in 2015 and 2016 were both more than thirty under his career .319 mark.

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals

After earning the National League M.V. P. honors the season before, Harper hit just .243 and his 24 home runs were barely half of the total he hit in 2015. The outfielder is also hoping to improve his numbers considerably, since he is eligible for free agency after the season.

Andrew McCutcheon of the Pittsburgh Pirates

Trade talk regarding the former N.L. M.V.P. has been frequent throughout the winter, so his comeback may have to occur while he is wearing the uniform of a club other than the Pirates. Ben Revere of the Washington Nationals

After hitting.317 with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, Revere’s average plummeted to .214 when he went to Washington. He really needs a comeback year for, like his teammate Harper, he will become a free agent at the end of the season.

Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals

His home run totals went up four from 2015, but his batting average dropped fifty one points to .221. Kansas City, which missed out on the playoffs after winning two straight pennants, needs Gordon to bounce back if they want to return to the postseason.

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The Future of Android Games, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

Mobile gaming has come a very long way since the introduction of crude & simple games like Snake and Pong which were available on early Nokia phones. Mobile processors and graphics are now as powerful as desktop computers were just a few years ago. Older generations still remember lugging around a Game Boy or Game gear and begging their parents for another game. New generations literally have access to 100’s of thousands of games on their mobile device.

In short, mobile gaming has exploded in just a few years time. In the month of July 2016 there were 63.1 million arcade games downloaded & games in the “strategy” category generated $195M revenue. In a recent study over 37% of mobile app users with 30 minutes of free time choose to play games over any other activity. We’ve all seen it and we’ve all done it ourselves, whether its waiting for an appointment or sitting at the airport, we pull out our mobile device and jump into a quick game to kill the time.

So what does all of this mean for the future of android gaming? For starters, the massive amounts of revenue and user interest in android gaming has bolstered continuous innovation and fierce competition in the global marketplace. For example, just 12 months ago, top executives were saying they didn’t see any major benefit to augmented reality. With the release of Pokemon Go and estimates citing as much as $500 million in revenue in just 60 days, I think we can all agree augmented reality is here to stay. Virtual reality is another area that has been picking up steam in recent months. You can now buy virtual reality headsets at local gas stations for a mere $30. Or if you’re on a budget you can purchase Google Cardboard for as little as $7.00. There are still only a limited number of VR enabled games but that number is increasing daily. Not only that, as more and more people experience VR we are sure to see a blockbuster release sooner or later.

Let’s take a look at some real life examples of recent game releases. Dawn of Titans which was recently released on Google Play was in development for over 2 years. This is akin to the development cycle of a mid-level PC game release on Steam. The game features mass controlled troops, world building elements and impressive graphics. A few years ago this would be considered a major release for the Android platform. These days this is just another drop in the massive pond. With over 2.4 million apps and games currently listed on Google Play it’s become harder and harder to stand out. This is actually good news for gamers as developers are working harder and faster to create new innovative titles to attract users.

I firmly believe that both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) titles are going to gain more traction in 2017. Major developers who can pump out triple A content can’t be left in the dust while indie developers pump out AR and VR enabled games. They will be forced to port existing titles and come up exciting new ways to interact with the mobile devices.

There are many gimmicky games available that utilize the phones microphone, gyroscope, camera and accelerometer. However, these sensors combined with AR and VR could bring a whole new experience to gamers. Imagine walking through a recreated 3D world that represents your neighbourhood, immersed in full virtual reality, and using your phone as a targeting device to defend against waves of zombies. This is already possible with the technology that is available, it just needs to be packaged in a user friendly way that people can enjoy. Combining meticulous graphics with well thought out virtual reality experiences would be impressive indeed. If you’re familiar with PC based virtual reality demo’s you already know how immersive the experience can be. It’s only a matter of time before these same experiences make their way to our mobile devices en masse. And to think, only 30 years ago we were playing Mario on our beloved Nintendo consoles. Let’s not even mention the Virtual Boy that burned your eyes after 2 minutes of playing tennis. Android games and mobile games in general have come a long ways since then and they will continue to push barriers even further in the near future.

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