It would be quite the understatement to suggest that the Rafa-Marquez-at-New-York-Red-Bulls experiment didn't work out. News that the Red Bulls had parted ways with the much-maligned defender/midfielder on December 13 was met with much jubilation by New York supporters posting on websites such as Twitter and Facebook, and some went so far as to suggest that Marquez was the worst player in the history of the franchise. While I often state that perception is reality regarding such discussions, I wanted to take an in-depth look at the matter.
There are, of course, some things about Marquez's tenure with the MLS side that I cannot prove as of the creation of this piece. Ideas that Marquez was a bad teammate or that he didn't care about winning in MLS have never been confirmed by teammates or the player himself (teammates such as captain Thierry Henry and Dax McCarty went out of their way to praise and defend Rafa in 2012), although his recent comments about the US domestic league being an "amateur tournament" certainly don't help his cause. Therefore, I decided to use just the stats and try to remain as unbiased as I could.
The Red Bulls officially introduced Marquez as the club's third designated player back on August 2, 2010, and he made his official MLS debut six days later when New York hosted the Chicago Fire. The Red Bulls played a total of 81 regular season games from August 8, 2010 up until the start of the 2012 playoffs. Marquez made 44 regular season appearances during his MLS career, 42 of them starts, meaning that injuries/suspensions sidelined him for about 48 percent of the games New York played following his first match with the club.
New York played a total of seven postseason games over the past three fall seasons. Marquez started in six of those contests, but his most memorable stats from those matches are ones he'd rather forget; two red cards, one he picked up because of an altercation that occurred after the Red Bulls lost at home to the LA Galaxy last year, and one that he earned following a harsh tackle that he committed while already on a yellow in the second half of New York's home match versus rivals DC United last month.
Durability was a significant issue during Marquez's MLS stint, especially in 2012. He's credited with having made 15 league appearances last season, but even that low number is a bit inflated. He managed to play a half or less of in-game soccer on five separate occasions this year; 45 minutes on 3/31 at Montreal Impact, 21 minutes on 7/15 vs. Seattle Sounders, four minutes on 8/10 vs. Houston Dynamo, 35 minutes on 9/22 at New England Revolution and 15 minutes on 10/6 vs. Chicago.
While appearing on the Red Bull Rant podcast to discuss Marquez's departure from the club in mid-December, our four-man panel was asked to judge the former DP based on his play alone and not the money he earned while with the Red Bulls. I found that to be a pointless exercise because the amount of money Marquez made is a big reason for his not being considered merely a flop or just a poor signing. Had Marquez made, for example, somewhere between $1-2 million per season over the past two and a half years, I don't think that he would be the villain that he is in the eyes of many RBNY supporters.
Ives Galarcep of Soccer by Ives/FOX Soccer reported on December 13 that Marquez likely reeled in over $14 million while with the Red Bulls. That includes salary and the buyout for the final year of his contract. Low-balling that figure and going with just $14 million, Marquez "earned" at least $280,000 for every RBNY appearance, including the playoffs. The nine assists that he notched while wearing a Red Bulls shirt were good for a fee of roughly $1.5 million apiece.
What can you buy with such funds? I'm glad you asked. For the reported $4.6 million that Marquez made this past season alone, New York could have instead had 2012 MLS leading goal scorer Chris Wondolowski ($300k), assists leader Graham Zusi (rounded up to $139k), 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Jimmy Nielsen ($220k), 2012 Defender of the Year Matt Besler ($103k), 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry ($59k) and still possessed plenty of cash left to spare. Let's throw in 2012 MLS Best XI stars Aurélien Collin (roughly $216k), Osvaldo Alonso ($185k) and Chris Pontius (about $166k) while we're at it. After all that, you'd still have enough money to acquire the likes of Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero, Marvin Chavez and Omar Gonzalez, all without going over your budget.
The Red Bulls front office acquired Marquez to move merchandise and sell tickets as much as they did to build what they hoped would be a championship side. I don't have any figures on the subject in front of me, but I find it impossible to believe that Marquez helped New York make $14 million on the sale of jerseys, shirts, hats, scarves, coats, etc. since the summer of 2010. As for ticket sales, RBNY home attendance dropped 7.6 percent in 2012 from 2011. While I certainly don't blame Marquez for that statistic, it's easy to argue that he didn't draw in a noticeable amount of returning customers.
Marquez alone also cannot be blamed for these final two stats, but that doesn't mean that they aren't extremely noteworthy. New York never made it to a cup final when Marquez was on the roster. They still have never won any meaningful trophy at all (Emirates Cup still doesn't count).
You cannot decide whether or not a player was the worst in the history of any team on numbers alone. It's an opinion, one that's impossible to formulate without letting your emotions come into play. Am I, after everything I've witnessed live, read, reviewed and typed, ready to say that Rafa Marquez is the worst player in the history of the New York Red Bulls franchise?
Yes I am, and I never needed any stat to help me make that statement in the first place.
Zac is a lifelong soccer fanatic, a diehard Red Bulls fan and one of the only American A-League fans you'll meet. He has been covering Major League Soccer, RBNY and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2011.