The fact that "this time, it counts" is one of the most ludicrous things about the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and one of the most inane and wacky aspects of Bud Selig's tenure as commissioner of baseball. That a game of stars who play together only once a year should have any bearing on the World Series is a crazy concept.
But this year, it feels a little less crazy than usual, thanks in no small part to the presence of six representatives from the team that looks more likely than any other to appear in the World Series — your Oakland Athletics. If anyone is going to decide home-field advantage in the World Series, it might as well be players from the teams most likely to play in the World Series. So the A's are well represented, as are the Dodgers, and the Angels (OK, they only have two players, but Mike Trout should count for at least four), the Blue Jays, the Tigers, the Brewers, and the rest of this season's baseball elite.
There are actually seven A's participating in tonight's event, but Jeff Samardzija, who pitched for the Cubs until an Oakland-Chicago Cubs blockbuster trade brought him to the American League, isn't eligible to participate. He apparently plans to be introduced along with the National League All-Stars, but spend the game in the AL dugout, cheering on his new league's team.
Of course, there are six Athletics who will likely participate in tonight's game. Josh Donaldson is the American League's starting third baseman, becoming Oakland's first position player All-Star participant since Ramon Hernandez in 2003.
Sean Doolittle is a great late-inning option for Boston manager John Farrell, running the AL squad, but Doolittle almost certainly won't close because Farrell's own closer, Koji Uehara, is also in the AL bullpen.
But Scott Kazmir might be the first man out of the bullpen for the AL, after Felix Hernandez finishes his well deserved start. The Kazmir watch likely starts once King Felix gets through two innings.
Farrell also has several position-player weapons from Oakland available off the bench: Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, and Derek Norris all could see action today. Moss' versatility in terms of defensive positioning might make him an attractive late-inning option, and since Cespedes is must-see baseball both at the plate and in left field, it's hard to imagine him not making an appearance.
Join the conversation as pregame festivities get underway. There will be a lot of Derek Jeter discussion, if you're into that sort of thing. Oh, you're not? Figures.
First pitch form Minnesota is hypothetically at 5pm Pacific time, but you know how these things go. (Spoiler alert: The game will not start at 5pm.) This is your one yearly opportunity to really root for Felix Hernandez, so make the most of it.