What with yesterday being an off-day (and picking up a half game on now-co-leaders Oakland & Anaheim Los Angeles), and in spite of the Golden Sombrero’s worth of strikeouts against Gil Meche & Co. on Wednesday, I cannot stress enough what Centerfielder (and future multi-Gold Glover) Franklin Gutierrez has meant to this ballclub thus far. I know it’s early, and he could easily regress back to his norm, but I think we should think long and hard about what his norm really is. After all, he’s only 27 years old, which in baseball means he’s coming right into the Prime of his career. 2008 was really his first year as a starter, but even then he only played 134 games. Last year was his breakthrough, playing in 153 games and batting .283 with 18 HR, 24 doubles, and 70 RBI. This year, he’s pretty much carrying this team on offense with his high average and OPS (On-Base + Slugging) and his timely hitting. He’s first on the team with a .345 average and .910 OPS; second on the team in RBI (13), hits (29), and sadly HR (2). When you take into account that this team only has 9 home runs in the first month – not to mention only 53 extra-base hits – offense is certainly at a premium. And, while we’re all ecstatic about the way Milton Bradley, Casey Kotchman, Chone Figgins, and obviously Ichiro are contributing to this team’s success so far, it’s past time Franklin Gutierrez is not only given credit where due, but it’s also time to recognize that we could very well have an MVP on our hands. I mean, the man is the best outfielder in the game right now; and will essentially play every game this year what with our non-fielding bench. If he keeps that average up, and starts working more extra-base hits as the weather improves, you’d be hard-pressed to show me a Player in the American League who is More Valuable.