Breaking Ball’s playoff preview: Top chefs in the playoff kitchen


Will Chipper Jones end his career by cooking up a World Series title for the Atlanta Braves? (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Well, that sure was one heck of a playoff race, huh? Though nothing will top last year’s drama, this year we were given a little extra adventure with the addition of one more wild card team in each league.

I’m not sure I totally agree with this new system. I’m somewhere in between “This is an awesome new playoff system!” and “Get off my lawn!” With each league’s two wild card teams going up against each other Friday in a single-elimination game to find out who is the wildest card of them all, some of what I’m writing might already be inaccurate by the time you are reading this. Because while you are reading this right now, the right now in which I am writing this has already passed.

And even the “right now” I mentioned previously for me is considered “then.” If you have any idea what I’m talking about please comment below and explain it to me because I am lost.

The end of the season means the start of the playoffs for only 10 teams. For the other 20 it is a time of reflection and whole lot of woulda shoulda coulda. However, Boston fans are already offseason winners with the firing of Bobby Valentine. Don’t worry, Rockies and Pirates, your incompetent managers will soon be joining Bobby V on the scrap heap.

It’s time to look at these playoff teams and divine who will end up on top of the baseball mountain covered in a downpour of celebratory champagne and/or sparkling apple cider.

In the playoffs, it doesn’t really matter who the best team is. There’s a lot of random chance involved when teams match up for a series. Last year’s St. Louis Cardinals are a great example. They barely squeaked into the playoffs because the Braves fell apart and then they went on to the World Series where, as luck would have it, they went up against a superior team that just happened to be managed by the semi-incompetent Ron Washington.

So, what I’m really going to do here is just try to make some educated guesses as to how this will all turn out. This year, like last year, there is no one team that really stands out as the one. But you know me, I can’t just write a column and give my opinions. I need something to tie it all together. Last year, I compared every team to separate contestants on Dancing with the Stars.

This year, I’m not watching DWTS, but I’ll tell you what I have been watching: lots and lots of cooking shows. Food Network, Cooking Channel, Bravo – Top Chef, Iron Chef America, Chopped!, Restaurant Impossible. I am eating them up! Get it? Eating! Shut up.

I am going to compare each team to one the world’s most famous chefs, but don’t ask me how because I have not thought this out very much, and anything that you read from here on that seems clever or insightful is entirely an accident.

Let’s do this.

American League

New York Yankees (East Division champs). Well, the Yankees are in the playoffs – again. You’d think some of these guys would start to show signs of aging, but they must be “clean” since none have tested positive for PEDs. Yet. Of all the playoff teams, they are the ones that seem most like Chef Wolfgang Puck. He’s the brand name that everyone recognizes, and he’s widely regarded as one of the most successful chefs in the history of the world. He’s also like the Yankees in that he’s getting on in years and the name doesn’t mean quite what it used to mean.

“Jed says we’re like Chef Paula Deen.” “¿Quién?”

Detroit Tigers (Central Division champs). This year’s Tigers team is worse than last year’s team. But they’ve got the league’s best pitcher in Justin Verlander and they’ve got Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder – two of the best and heaviest hitters in the league. Speaking of people who like butter, Chef Paula Deen fits in here nicely. Like the Tigers, she’s not really going to win anything against the rest of these chefs, but she’s got a fanatic fan base who will stand by her no matter how unhealthy it may be.

Oakland Athletics (West Division champs). You can wonder if this team won the West Division or the Rangers gave it away, but after 162 games, Oakland is on top. Oakland seemed like one of those teams that would have a nice run and then go away after a while – and they never did. The chef that won’t go away is Chef(ish) Guy Fieri. With the bleached hair, the raspy voice and what appears to be only marginal chef’ing skills, shouldn’t the world have gotten tired of him by now? They haven’t. And I’ll keep hate-watching his show as he travels the country finding delicious food to shove down his gullet.

Texas Rangers (wild card). The Rangers have been quietly going about their business this season with not much media attention. Unfortunately, the last week or so of the season, business went bad and they just barely made the playoffs. This team is like Chef Gordon Ramsey, because maybe he’s the best out there, but he’s so all over the place, you can’t really tell. Fortunately for Gordon, he is not subject to the questionable managing of Ron Washington. Though maybe Ron actually wanted to be the wild card because the two teams to beat them in the World Series were both wild card teams. Or maybe he’s just Ron Washington.

Baltimore Orioles (wild card). This is one of the worst teams to ever make the playoffs. And they almost won their division. See what I mean about the Yankees not being so special? The Orioles have been one of the luckiest teams I’ve ever seen and probably don’t belong here. Like Alton Brown – I’m not even sure if he’s a chef, but somehow he’s got like three or four food-related TV shows. Maybe he’s the cousin of a producer or the brother of some famous person. I don’t know. But sometimes it just pays to be in the right place at the right time – just like the Orioles.

National League

Washington Nationals (East Division champs). The Nationals seem to be the default favorite in the National League. They sure would look scarier if they hadn’t shut down Stephen Strasburg for the season. Even still, with their good offense, solid defense and excellent pitching, they look like a champion. Chef Mario Batali definitely looks the most like how you’d want a chef to look – kind of a modern-day version of my favorite chef ever: Chef Boyardee. Mario is one of the best chefs in the world and he would probably be the favorite in any competition he was in – except maybe a 5K run.

Cincinnati Reds (Central Division champs). The Reds are another very complete team and seem to be every bit as good as the Nationals. You might worry about them being a little soft since they clinched their playoff spot almost two weeks ago because their division is the worst. Chef Robert Irvine deals with saving the worst restaurants around on his show Restaurant: Impossible – which happens to be my favorite show. He gets right in there with his tight black shirts and his bulging muscles and gets all aspects of a restaurant balanced out and puts them in a position to finally succeed. The Reds also have a bunch of muscled sluggers and have finally got their offense, pitching and defense balanced out for a chance to succeed.

The Giants are the Cat Cora of the NL playoffs.

San Francisco Giants (West Division champs). The Giants won their division, though it seems more like the Dodgers gave up and handed it to them about six weeks ago. This Giants team is a weird one. They have some decent offense but some players who are less than zero at the plate. Their bullpen is excellent but their starting pitching is all over the place, and you never know what to expect. Let’s go with Chef Cat Cora here. If you met her at a party, you’d probably not really know what to expect from her, since she’s an “Iron Chef” and, most importantly, she’s the hottest of all the chefs. Though that’s not really saying much since we’re talking about people who make a living eating food and hiding in the back rooms of restaurants.

Atlanta Braves (wild card). The Braves redemption year and Chipper Jones‘ farewell party season continues. They crashed and burned last year, but they put that behind them, and now they’re ready to make a run in Chipper’s final season. A lot of other teams are getting the attention as favorites, while things around this team are pretty quiet. Chef Bobby Flay has a very quiet personality, but he’s a bad mofo in the kitchen. This guy is an Iron Chef and on his three to four other shows comes across as the nicest guy. And what can I say? I like the guy. And I like these Braves, too. A lot.

St. Louis Cardinals (wild card). I’m not sure how the Cardinals made it in. I guess because of a combination of the Dodgers falling apart – just like the Braves did last year to let the Cardinals in – and the fact that they play in the worst division in baseball. Nine of their last 12 games were against the historically awful Astros and a Reds team that had already won the division. I’m not sure why Chef Giada De Laurentiis is a celebrity chef. Can anyone really like a person like that? Nope. Are there people out there who don’t look at her and wonder how many people she has murdered? Not many. St. Louis Cardinals World Series repeat? No, thanks.

World Series

If you were to put all these amazing chefs up against each other, you couldn’t guess in advance who would win because of so many random factors like what ingredients they had to work with, or the time constraints or what equipment was to be used. It might be easier to guess who’s most likely to get bumped first: Paula Deen and Alton Brown.

And so it is with baseball and all of its wonderful random factors. There’s no way to guess with accuracy who will win. Again it might be easier to guess who’s most likely to get eliminated first: Tigers and Orioles.

But here’s my guess for winning it all: the Atlanta Braves. What can I say? I like these guys.

If you’re upset that I didn’t mention your favorite celebrity chef or that I didn’t pick your team to win, you should keep in mind that I am sort of new to the “celebrity chef” game and also that you shouldn’t waste the precious breath of your life on being upset about this stuff.

Here’s to some great playoff baseball and some yummy food to go along with it.

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