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Dee Gordon suspension will plague Marlins

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Gordon's suspension is surprising and untimely.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When Don Mattingly returned to Los Angeles to face his old club for the first time, he almost certainly couldn't have anticipated after a four-game sweep, he would be forced to part with his All-Star second baseman for 80 games.

But after Tuesday's 5-3 victory over the Dodgers, that was exactly the case.

Mattingly and Miami's front office executives quickly learned Dee Gordon tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and would be suspended, effectively immediately.

How could anyone have seen this coming?

Gordon was coming off a notably productive 2015 campaign with the Marlins. He appeared to be an emerging leader by example and quickly became a fan favorite because of the energy he brings daily.

But this 80 game suspension leaves the Marlins without more than basketball dunks during post-game interviews when the Marlins earn a walk-off win. It leaves a key hole in the lineup and on the infield.

The time of the drug test was unknown. It could have been during Spring Training. It could have two weeks into the season. Regardless, Major League Baseball's announcement early Friday morning served as a reminder that even the least-suspected players can be using PEDs.

Miami has won five in a row and appears to have momentum heading into its series with Milwaukee that begins Friday night. After trying to inch closer to five-hundred, the Marlins are approaching that mark. Without Gordon, though, that might be challenging.

The Marlins do have several second base options to turn to, but Gordon is the ideal starter in every instance. Martin Prado can shift to second. Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas are also options.

Gordon's absence doesn't just leave the Marlins without a second baseman. It also leaves them without a lead off man.

Gordon wasn't having a ton of success before learning of the news. Over 21 games, he batted .266 to complement five RBIs and six stolen bases.

Perhaps his most valuable asset gets overlooked, though: Gordon gets on base and creates opportunities for a Marlins offense that at times has difficulty producing consistently.

At this point, there is no need to judge Gordon. We don't know whether or not he truly took the substance unaware it was banned by Major League Baseball. However, Gordon has to understand how valuable of a player he is to the organization.

Before last winter, the Marlins were hesitant to give any player a long-term extension. They confided in Gordon, signing him to a five-year, $50 million deal. Now, they will be paying him to watch games from elsewhere.

In the broad context of the team, the suspension could have a significant effect on Miami's performance moving forward. Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton are Miami's franchise players and both are healthy at the same time. But Gordon has emerged as a franchise star, too.

Look at his production. Look at the energy he brings. Look at his defense.

In the scheme of things, this will probably settle down on a national scale by the end of the weekend. But for the Marlins, it will follow them around all year.

Gordon ended 2015 with a WAR just under five. His absence could be the difference between five wins. If the Marlins turn things around, those five wins could be the difference between a Wild Card spot and the premature end to the season.

Even if Gordon returns at the end of July, the Marlins could be out of it by then.