To the surprise of absolutely no one, Ryan Helsley was chosen for the NL All-Star team. The honor was warranted and obvious. There is no debate here. Not even at a time when Americans can’t agree on much of anything.

I mean, 31 saves by July 2? Among major-league closers that have at least 20 lock-box saves this season, Helsley ranks No. 1 with a 94 percent save rate. And the 31 saves are the most in the majors.

There was a time when I’d get unnecessarily indignant over All-Star voting results, roster-filling selections, and snubs. But I can’t even generate any fake outrage, which makes me a societal outcast.

Several reasons for my level-headed take:

1. Many players will bail out of this showcase for a variety of reasons, and that will lead to a rush-job order of roster-replacement parts. By the time MLB actually stages this annual exhibition, approximately 628 players will have the All-Star credit to their names … even if they withdraw from the non-competition. OK, I’m exaggerating that number. It isn’t 628. But I think we can agree that the number of “All-Stars” will be preposterously high. It sort of reduces the value of the whole thing for me. The honor of making an All-Star team is diluted.

2. It isn’t a real game. It’s a pageant, an exhibition, an entertainment event. I do remember when the AL teams and NL teams really, really wanted to win this thing. And when the American League All-Stars were dominated by the National League All-Stars over a long period of time, this became A Serious Thing that caused embarrassment and shame for the chronic losers. Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver lost several of these All-Star games, and it left him infuriated every single time. It’s a bonus in a player’s contract. Parts of it are fun, and we’ve enjoyed watching some memorable moments through the years. My personal favorite was Reggie Jackson’s light-tower shot at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium in the 1971 All-Star festival.

3. I hate the garish uniforms. This ain’t slo-pitch softball, OK? I’m usually really good about accepting change. I’m not one of these “everything was better in my days” dudes. But I always looked forward to seeing all of the All-Stars report for action wearing the uniforms of the home-market teams they represent. In a way, I think I’m being silly. Because with every MLB team playing each other during the regular season, the mystique and much of the appeal of the All-Star Game isn’t the same and hasn’t been for a long time.

I will watch the 2024 game, and I’ll be on the lookout for certain individuals. Only one Cardinal (Helsley) is on the NL squad so far. I was hoping that shortstop Masyn Winn would make it … and I suppose there’s still a chance based on players who opt-out of this year’s game.

But I understand and accept why Winn was bypassed in the process this time.

Philadelphia’s Trea Turner was voted in by the fans. And the fans get to pick the starting position players. Turner missed six weeks earlier this season with an injury, but that’s irrelevant. He’s been exceptional since returning on June 17. Definitely an All-Star caliber starter.

Mookie Betts (Dodgers) was chosen as a reserve. But he suffered a fractured hand on June 16 and won’t be able to play in the All-Star Game. But he was selected as a gesture of respect. Great player. Great ambassador for the game. And when he’s officially ruled out of the game, the NL will add a player. Winn could be considered at that point. But I won’t make any predictions.

CJ Abrams (Nationals) is a helluva player. One of the best young performers in the sport. He went into Monday with a .282 average, 21 doubles, five triples, 14 homers and 14 steals. His OPS+ is 64 percent above league average offensively. He isn’t in Winn’s class defensively, but I don’t think defense factors into All-Star roster decisions. And Abrams is Washington’s only representative. Each of the 30 teams must have at least one rostered player for the All-Star Game. But Abrams belongs under any circumstances.

As expected, Elly De La Cruz (Reds) received a “please join us” RSVP. The All-Star Game is a stage for new stars, with baseball fans wanting to see the young guys who have created a buzz, and significant popularity, in short time. There always should be space in the All-Star Game for a dynamic player like De La Cruz. Amazing speed, power, charisma, all-around excitement. All eyes are on him whether he’s at the plate or in the field, or jumping around in the dugout.

The problem for Winn is the magnitude and star power of the NL’s shortstop group in 2024. He’s having the kind of rookie campaign that would put him in serious All-Star consideration – or on the team – in a “normal” year. But ‘24 2024 is the Year of the Shortstop in the National League. There are so many many outstanding players at the position including Turner, Betts, Abrams, De La Cruz, Betts, Trea Turner, CJ Abrams, Elly De La Cruz, Winn, Francisco Lindor, Ezequiel Tovar, and ONeil Cruz, Willy Adames and Ha-Seong-Kim.

This isn’t 2017 when the NL’s starting shortstop was Zack Cozart with only one backup (Corey Seager.) It isn’t 2012, when the three NL All-Star shortstops were a declining Rafael Furcal, the vastly overrated Ian Desmond and Starlin Castro (102 OPS+).

And it’s definitely not 2005, when the NL All-Star shortstop contingent featured David Eckstein, Felipe Lopez, Cesar Izturis and Jimmy Rollins. Three shortstops with Cardinal ties – at the moment or in the future. Rollins had a heck of a career, but was pretty average in 2005. That 2005 shortstop group was a Picasso of a puzzle, eh?

If the selections were strictly based on merit in all phases of the game, Winn has the credentials to belong in the All-Star Game. Here’s why:

* Winn leads NL shortstops in defensive runs saved at +10. He’s a fantastic fielder with a powerful arm and amazing grace around the bag in turning acrobatic, artistic double plays.

* Going into Monday, Winn was hitting 47 points higher than Cruz in batting average: .294 to .247. Winn also had a slight edge over Cruz in onbase percentage. But Cruz was well above Winn in some other areas, which I’ll get to in a few moments.

* In Baseball Reference WAR, Winn (3.4) ranks third among NL shortstops to Betts (3.9) and Abrams (3.5). Winn has a WAR that’s a smidge higher than De La Cruz. But this is where it gets tricky: if we use Outs Above Average, Cruz is rated above Winn defensively. I’m not all that fired up about OAA as a measure because it’s too limited in scope. (It’s mostly about a quick first step or two instead of the all-around skill and the difficulty of making a play.) Because of their perceived differences in defense and baserunning, De La Cruz has more WAR than Winn in the FanGraphs methodology.

De La Cruz leads NL shortstops with 43 steals and is tied with Lindor for the most home runs (15.) And De La Cruz has a 48-point advantage over Winn in slugging percentage, and a slight edge in OPS+.

De La Cruz is a wonderfully charismatic and abundant talent. Winn has charisma and rich talent, but no young shortstop has as much flair as De La Cruz. Winn doesn’t have the benefit of an all-out National Hype Train. I don’t think it was wrong for De La Cruz to get the invitation over Winn. Not at all. No one should view this as a wrong or disrespectful decision. But if this was a close call — and it probably wasn’t — it sure does help a candidate to have the full power of ESPN and FOX behind him. Winn will get there. He’s an All-Star talent. His time will come … soon.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has provided informed opinions and perspective on St. Louis sports through his columns, radio shows and podcasts since 1985.

Please follow Bernie on X @b_miklasz and Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts plus Apple and Spotify. Follow @seeingredpod on X for a direct link.

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Brooks Baseball Net, and Sports Info Solutions unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.