COLUMBIA, Mo. -

The dog days of summer are approaching.  We’re done with spring collegiate sports.  We’re into the meat of the MLB schedule.  And the calendar-covering NBA and NHL seasons are about to come to an end (eventually).

1) The St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in baseball. 

Despite having four starting pitchers on the disabled list: Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, John Gast, and Chris Carpenter (technically still classified as a starting pitcher); the Redbirds have an MLB-best 34-17 record entering Wednesday night’s game with the Royals.

Thanks to the effective and surprising contributions of a half dozen rookies, the Cardinals still have the best pitching staff in Major League Baseball, despite the injuries.  It’s THE reason why this team has the most wins in the Bigs. 

Three rookies in the rotation – Shelby Miller, Tyler Lyons, and Gast – have combined to go 9-3 with a 2.33 ERA. 

Three rookie relievers – Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, and Carlos Martinez – have combined to go 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA and 17 holds. 

The rash of injuries is about to force another rookie onto the big-league stage. 

Michael Wacha was the Cardinals first round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and has quickly established himself as one of the prized pitching prospects in all of baseball.

Wacha began his meteoric ascent with a stellar 2012 debut in pro ball.  The big 6-foot-6 righthander pitched in 11 games as a 20-year-old and was touched for just two earned runs in 21.2 innings pitched (0.86 ERA).  More astoundingly, he struck out 40 of the 75 batters he faced. 

Wacha then came to spring training in 2013 and looked like the best pitcher on the team.  He didn’t allow a single run. 

Despite that dominating performance against major league hitters, Wacha was sent to Triple-A Memphis because he wasn’t needed in St. Louis.  In nine Triple-A starts this season, Wacha is 4-0 with a Pacific Coast League-leading 2.05 ERA.

Wacha makes his MLB debut Thursday against Kansas City.

2) Speaking of the Royals, Ned Yost’s bunch is currently playing like the worst team in baseball.

They have hit two home runs since May 15.  Both by 39-year old Miguel Tejada

Not kidding.

To further the embarrassment, the Royals hitting coach offered this nonsense to reporters inquiring about the team’s lack of power.

*Ironically enough, two different big league players have hit three homers TODAY by themselves. 

Sure, the lineup is the biggest issue on the field with this team, but I’m not sure it’s the biggest issue overall with the team. 

Is it time to can Ned Yost?

I say yes.  It’s not for this reason, but I find it to be the perfect microcosm of his current status with the team and lackluster decision-making.

On May 6, the Royals were 17-10 entering a Monday series finale at home against the White Sox.  They had won four straight games and were attempting to finish up a long home stand with a sweep of a division rival.  They were one of the feel good stories of the first month in Major League Baseball.

On that fateful Sunday afternoon, the Royals sent their ace, their horse, the centerpiece of their blockbuster off-season trade – James Shields – to the mound. 

After a scoreless opening frame from Shields, Billy Butler doubled home Alex Gordon in the bottom of the inning to give the Royals a 1-0 lead.  That was plenty for Shields.  He allowed two hits and two walks covering the next seven frames.  He had struck out nine helpless White Sox hitters.

Despite that dominance covering eight breezy innings, Yost inexplicably pulled Shields in the ninth inning and turned the game over to his bullpen; a bullpen that can only be described to that point in the season as shaky at best. 

OF COURSE, the bullpen blew the save and eventually lost the game in the 11th inning.