Are You Ready For Some Baseball (and Basketball, and Football...)?

Sunflower Seed Business:
I’m happy to report that this year, unlike 2005, there is no chance that we will run out of sunflower seeds. You see, in 2004, the crop was heavily diseased, and it really affected production for 2005. I called the National Sunflower Association earlier this week and they reported to me that the Fall 2006 crop was excellent. The other good news: for those ballplayers out there or those who prefer to spit seeds instead of eat peanuts while at a ballgame, the price of the seeds doesn’t seem to be going up. This is despite the fact that sunflowers are, for the most part, getting less space on the farms due to the fact that massive ethanol production has them planting more corn at the expense of other crops.

With Opening Day on the horizon, I got together some of the best offerings of sunflower seeds to try so that I could review you them for you.

1. David -- These guys, along with the folks at Frito Lay, are the industry leaders. I do think there’s a reason for that. I think they are probably the best of the bunch I tried. Not too keen on any of the flavored varieties except Ranch.

2. Sumseeds -- These guys are the new kid on the block. Its pumped with caffeine, taurine, lysine and ginseng promising you an energy drink full of ingredients in one bag. (That will cost you 315 calories and 24 grams of fat if you’re counting!) It tasted like normal sunflower seeds, which I thought was great. All I need is for my sunflower seeds to taste like Red Bull.

3. Jim Beam -- It’s amazing that Jim Beam Bourbon is actually the fifth ingredient in these things behind the seeds, salt, water and maltodextrin. The Jalapeno was better than the BBQ and the BBQ was better than the original.

Steinbrenner and the Yankees:
As I’m sure many of you have heard by now, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner’s daughter Jennifer is divorcing Steve Swindal, the guy who was tabbed as Steinbrenner’s successor. Swindal will easily be dethroned as chairman of Yankees Global Enterprises, the company that manages their cable channel YES. It might be harder to get Swindal to sell his shares in the team, though I'm sure they’ll pay him a healthy stack of cash. Here are a couple things you might be wondering -- along with the best answers I have from talking to people inside baseball.

Q: How is George Steinbrenner’s health?
A: Ever since Steinbrenner fainted at a memorial service for Otto Graham in October 2003, some people have had this poor guy on death watch. Things got heightened again when he fainted at his daughter’s play in October. But from everything that I’ve been hearing the guy is actually a normal 76-year-old guy with the usual problems. How many years does the guy have to live? I have no clue.

Q: How much did Swindal really do?
A:He was part of the management team that includes Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and Brian Cashman. Will the Yankees fall apart without him? Hardly.

Q: When George passes on, will the team be kept in the family?
A: It would help to have Steinbrenner’s will or the estate planning, which could tell us if any of his grandchildren have received bigger shares in the team to avoid inheritance and estate taxes. The one thing we do know is that his other son-in-law, Felix Lopez, is a senior vice president, and perhaps more foreboding, his son Hank has been in the office every day for the last five months.

Will They Make A Commemorative Edition?:
In Dec. 2005, Alexander Wolff, a writer for Sports Illustrated bought a team in the new ABA. Well, it didn’t take much time for Wolff to get to the top. Tonight, his Vermont Frost Heaves will play the Texas Tycoons for the ABA Championship. I’m assuming Wolff, who authored the book “Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure,” knows a thing or two about running a team besides writing about it. Heading into tonight’s final, his team is 33-6 this season. When Wolff bought the team, I was really psyched about it. I thought it was brilliant that a media member had bought a team, which I had always hoped we would do when I was at ESPN. The whole point was that it would be the most inside a fan has ever gotten into an organization -- even if it were a minor league team. Problem is, Wolff and Sports Illustrated never did that. Despite his team’s incredible season, the last update I could find of his team was more than a month ago.

Reggie Bush Leads The Way:
The NFL’s Top 10 Jersey List is out and Reggie Bush holds the No. 1 spot in sales through February. Here’s the top 10:

1. Reggie Bush
2. Brian Urlacher
3. LaDainian Tomlinson
4. Troy Polamalu
5. Peyton Manning
6. Ben Roethlisberger
7. Chad Johnson
8. Vince Young
9. Carson Palmer
10. Tom Brady

The only guy I’m surprised about is Troy Polamalu. I know he’s a stud, but I just didn’t see him that high on the list.

Here are the Top 10 team sales:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Chicago Bears
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. San Diego Chargers
5. Indianapolis Colts
6. New Orleans Saints
7. New England Patriots
8. New York Giants
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Seattle Seahawks

Remember, the Dallas Cowboys have their own distribution, so that’s why they are not on the list here. The Saints presence in this list is incredible and shows the power that Reggie Bush had this year. I was told that had the Bears won the Super Bowl they would have beat out the Steelers, who also took the top spot last year.

Tough LeBron Question:
I swear I don’t need to write about LeBron James every day and I would have totally missed this if the awesome blogger Brooks Melchiordidn’t catch this, but Newsday reporter Ken Berger asked King James if he could ever imagine having a low-priced sneaker like New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury has. “No, I don't think so," James said. "Me being with Nike, we hold our standards high."

Shanoff Goes To Screen:
My former ESPN colleague and now bigtime blogger Dan Shanoff has optioned the rights to his screenplay to Chicago-based TeamWorks Media, a company specializing in sports and entertainment content. The story is about an intramural basketball team that goes from being campus champion to the national championship tournament.

Interesting News & Notes:
Fresh off my 0-for-31 tabulation on Danica Patrick’s race win percentage in the IRL, the Chicago Tribune reports today that AirTran Airways is launching a Danica Patrick online video game. Maybe you can help her win in the virtual world…. High school senior O.J. Mayo -- who could receive the next big shoe contract -- didn’t do well on a great national stage last night at the McDonald’s game, scoring only 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting…. Scott Wiese can’t be renamed Peyton Manning, a judge said yesterday, because it would compromise the Indianapolis Colts quarterback’s name. The Chicago Bears fan was doing it because he lost a Super Bowl bet. The person who made the bet was stupid. He should have asked for Wiese to rename himself Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne. I doubt the judge would have stopped that…Got a Brandon Roy Rookie of the Year Leatherman from the TrailBlazers yesterday. It’s pretty sweet. But I’m not sure I need anything more than his last name, which spells out R-O-Y. I mean, wouldn’t you vote for a guy named Mike MVP for Most Valuable Player? For those looking for that NBA Dance Bracket I referred to yesterday, here it is.

Questions? Comments?