29.6.15

Sox Week 12: Trade Sale and Abreu? Plus Posner on the Supreme Court and Greece!

Sox
The Sox aren’t the most interesting team in the league—let alone Chicago—right now. They are, just kind of… well… there. They aren’t good. But thanks to their starting pitching, most games are at least interesting.

You’re typical non-John-Danks-start Sox game goes something like this: Sox get good starting pitching, no run support, though maybe a 2-1 or 3-1 lead, only for that lead to be blown by the bullpen or poor management from Robin Ventura. Odds are the Sox will have a chance to add to the lead, but a combo of poor hitting and running themselves out of innings happens and the Sox lose 5-4 or 4-2.

Like I said, not that interesting. More frustrating, pathetic, and sad.

However, last week Fangraph's asked a question which actually makes the Sox interesting: should they trade Sale and Abreu?

Dave Cameron’s thought process is this: the Sox aren’t very good, their moves to be competitive in 2015 haven’t and don’t look like they will work, Sale (and Abreu) are great baseball players, the Sox aren’t going anywhere this year or probably next, so trade Sale (and Abreu) attach a bad contract, and get some great prospects back.

What could the team ask for Sale, a +5 to +6 WAR player who is only owed about $50 million over the next four seasons? Realistically, those four years are worth something closer to $125 to $150 million — and that’s not including the in-season trade markup that applies to every July trade — so if you’re Rick Hahn, you can tell Andrew Friedman that it’s going to cost them Corey Seager and Julio Urias, plus they have to take John Danks as well. If the Cubs want to move Sale across town, great, all it will cost them is Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, and Arismendy Alcantara, plus they have to absorb Melky Cabrera in the deal as well.

The Dodger deal is at least interesting, something to think about. The Cubs deal? Yuck. Sale for Schwarber is a steal for the Cubs; see how the Sox develop hitters, Baez and Alcantara would probably strike out 50% of the time.

But back to the proposal, it’s interesting and somewhat fun to think about (if depressing at the same time because it means trading Chris Sale), but the Sox, as disappointing as they’ve been this year, are better off keeping Sale. While the return for Sale could be franchise changing, the likelihood of all the prospects dealt becoming annual 3 or 4 fWAR players through 2022 is unlikely. Moving Sale, who is signed to probably the best pitcher contract in baseball, creates as many issues as it solves.

While the Sox have holes up and down the lineup and 2015 is effectively over, things might not be as bad as it seems. Eaton has been much better in May and June. As pointed out in this South Side Sox piece, Melky is showing life after a disastrous first third of the season. Moving him (as suggested in the Fangraphs proposal as a salary) seems foolish because you're selling low.

Is it disappointing that third, second, and catcher never came together for the 2015 White Sox? Sure. Is it a bummer that short has become a problem and after a nice start, there are still major questions about Garcia and right field? Of course. But the Sox might have an answer to the various outfield issues with Trayce Thompson. As bad as he was defensively in the majors, Micah Johnson’s bat looks promising enough and hopefully his glove will improve in AAA this year. And while Carlos Sanchez has been horrible at the plate, it's still a little too soon to say he can't hit; he doesn’t have a ton of at bats under his belt and deserves another two months in the lineup to make adjustments and we can see what he's got.

It will be an interesting offseason for the Sox. They’re looking at another top ten, maybe even top five pick, next year. But the minor league system, which has ever so slowly been rebuilt, will also start yielding returns (in fact, it’s already begun). They’ll add a young player or two when Samardzija is dealt. Competing in 2016 seems like a stretch still, but 2017? Who knows? And if you may in fact be competing for the AL Central in 2017, why trade Sale in 2015?

Baseball is a weird game, filled with a ton of randomness. Things went really horribly for the Sox in 2015, doesn’t mean they’ll get some luck in 2017 or 2018.

Most Interesting Things I’ve Read this Week:
An Incredibly Detailed Map of Europe's Population Shifts (City Lab): A very cool map and interesting overview of population changes in Europe over the last decade.


John Stuart Mill in On Liberty drew an important distinction between what he called “self-regarding acts” and “other-regarding acts.” The former involves doing things to yourself that don’t harm other people, though they may be self-destructive. The latter involves doing things that do harm other people. He thought that government had no business with the former (and hence—his example—the English had no business concerning themselves with polygamy in Utah, though they hated it). Unless it can be shown that same-sex marriage harms people who are not gay (or who are gay but don’t want to marry), there is no compelling reason for state intervention, and specifically for banning same-sex marriage. The dissenters in Obergefell missed this rather obvious point.

Pretty good take down of Roberts and Alito’s logic failures by Posner.


What's certain, though, is that it is yet another moment during this crisis when decision-makers (both Greek and European) have shifted the burden caused by their own failings to the Greek people, who have put up with the economic collapse and tough fiscal measures over the last few years but deserved much better – from all sides.

The entire Greece situation has been a cluster youknowwhat for years. They spend years trying to figure out who was going to take the hit, finally coming to a deal in 2012 that got the banks out of the discussions. But that only bought everyone time, and boy oh boy did things change in January when Syriza came to power. And now we’re here, possibly looking at the end of the EU. There’s lots of blame to go around. But if the EU isn’t willing to save a member country… well it never had a chance. Lots can change, but boy oh boy (twice in a graph!) there seems to be far too much short term thinking going on here.

22.6.15

Week 11: Time to Think about the Future

Sox
While some might argue that the Sox are drifting ever so slowly out of contention, let me be the bearer of bad news: the 2015 season is over. To get to 90 wins, the Sox need to play .638 baseball from here on out. That’s not happening. And even if you to argue, “the AL stinks! 86 wins could easily get you into the playoffs” well that means the Sox would have to play .596 baseball from here on out… that’s 96 win pace over 162 games.


It ain’t happening.


So it’s time to focus on 2016. I’m not in the trade/fire everyone mindset. Robin’s gotta go, but what’s the point of firing him right now? And selling low on guys like Melky makes no sense.


But the Sox can start taking a look at guys that may, or may not, be part of the future plans. While we know Tim Anderson is the shortstop of the future, he’s still in AA and developing. There’s little reason to give him burn in the majors (where he’d probably fail). The same is true of anyone who is around 22 or younger… let them to continue to develop in the minors. No need to rush them right now, even if they have a shot of cracking the 2016 lineup. That’s what September is for after all.


I’m talking about guys who have been in the system for a little while, they’re probably 24 or 25, maybe had a cup of coffee even. Either way, I’d rather take a look at these guys sooner rather than later (for the most part).


Trayce Thompson: A favorite of mine for years, things have come along nicely this year in Charlotte. The walks aren’t there this year and there are some legit OBP concerns because of it, but he’s cut down on his strikeouts at AAA. The power has remained and while his batting average may be slightly BABIP inflated, Thompson has some speed. For years people have said his glove is very good. All in all, this is all good, he’s done want he needed to do, for the most part, at AAA. And maybe the walks level back to his A and AA average in the majors.


At 24, another few months in the minors isn’t going to make or break Thompson; he probably is who he is and isn’t going to develop a ton more. In my estimation, he’s proven himself enough at AA and now AAA—specifically cutting the K rate a little—to deserve a call up.


Sure, you’d like to get him in the lineup everyday which won’t be the case with all three outfielders healthy. And while there is nothing wrong with J.B. Shuck, fourth outfielder, he’s also not in the long term plans for the Sox since he has neither power or a good glove; something which Thompson gives you.


Plus getting Thompson three starts a week shouldn’t be too tough. Sitting a bad Melky or an inconsistent Eaton doesn’t change much of anything for the Sox. Plus his brother just won the NBA Title, let’s make this a great week for the Thompson family.


Matt Davidson: A horrible year in AAA in 2014 has yielded an… underwhelming start to 2015 again in AAA. There isn’t a ton to love about Davidson’s 2015, he’s striking out too much, the walk rate is okay, and he’s still struggling to get on base because of all that. But the power is still there, even if it isn’t fantastic.


But here’s the thing… Gillaspie is bad and Beckham is (once again) worse. I fail to see the point of rolling those two out there every day. It’s doubtful that Davidson is the answer at third in 2016, but we might as well find out in the last three months of 2015.


The only issue with calling Davidson up is that there isn’t an obvious move to make on the roster. Releasing Bonifacio makes little financial sense. And in theory you could release Gordon Beckham, but in theory the Laffer Curve works too. Beckham, like Kirk Hinrich, is in the JR Circle of Trust and they will forever haunt my sports life because of it. It’s going to be 2038 and Kirk will be in year 17 as coach of the Bulls while Beckham enters his 11th season as the Sox hitting instructor. Sigh.


But back to Davidson… I’m not nearly as high on him as I am on Thompson, but third base on the Sox is stupid, so why not? Davidson might even clear the low bar of .235/.283/.373 with poor D that Gillaspie and Beckham are giving the Sox.


Erik Johnson: Look who is back? Well sort of…


Johnson was horrible last year in only five starts and was quickly moved back to AAA where he continued to be bad all year. IIRC, he was finally shut down late in the summer as he sure was pitching like someone who was injured.


Johnson’s bounced back a bit this year. The K rate has spiked back up to over 10 per 9 with a solid ERA after an outstanding week. His FIP is even better as he’s been unlucky on the BABIP side of things. The one concern is walks, where Johnson’s BB/9 is higher than you’d like. But all in all, there a solid signs of Johnson bouncing back this year and hopefully putting things back together.


While John Danks isn’t going to be sent packing any time soon, he’d be the guy to go to make room for Johnson. I am pretty agnostic about getting Johnson 12 starts in the majors this year because while Danks isn’t good, he’s also not killing the Sox since they’re not going anywhere this year. Keeping Johnson down in AAA until September makes more sense since he probably has more to work on, confidence to build, than either Thompson or Davidson at this point. However, a good case can be made to move Danks to the pen and let Johnson have a two month run in the rotation… again, because why not? John Danks is at best a below average starter.


But most likely, the Sox are going to move Samardzija sooner rather than later, and Johnson will probably be the guy that takes his spot in the rotation.


Most Interesting Things I’ve Read this Week:
Who’s afraid of America? (The Economist)
And America has been distracted. During 13 years of counter-insurgency and stabilisation missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon was more focused on churning out mine-resistant armoured cars and surveillance drones than on the kind of game-changing innovation needed to keep well ahead of military competitors. America’s combat aircraft are 28 years old, on average. Only now is the fleet being recapitalised with the expensive and only semi-stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Iraq. Again. Ooops. Interesting article on how the US is losing its military edge, partly due to the rise of China (and Russia) and partly because we took our eye off the ball for a decade. Good job, good effort, W.

15.6.15

Week 10: Old Bulls Thoughts

Life has been busy... sorry. Back now.

A few Bulls thoughts this week, I have lots of Sox thoughts just didn't get them on to paper yet.

Bulls:

Because I can be a dork, I already wrote some of this over at Blog-a-Bull. One thing that bothered me about this Kelly Dwyer piece on the Bulls, their front office, and Thibs, was this idea that GarPax put together this great roster. They put together a very good, even great (if healthy) front court. Everything else leaves a lot to be desired… the Bulls went into the season with only one proven two way wing. In 2014/2015. In the NBA.

Rose and Jimmy, great backcourt. But GarPax lucked into Rose and Butler’s development is Jimmy’s doing first and foremost, anyone taking credit for the player Butler has become is kidding themselves: that’s 90% Jimmy, 10% coaching (or 80/20 whatever point remains). GarPax did bring in Dunleavy for the cheap. But he was starting, and there’s an excellent argument that Dunleavy should have only been coming off the bench because he’s pretty poor on D.

And, well, would you lookie here, the Bulls weren’t actually that deep on the wing or at guard. Brooks, while he had a very nice regular season, is a below average back up. Kirk "Worst player in the League" Hinrich was on this team for one can only figure to be are "cultural" reasons.

Instead of rolling the dice by picking two wings in the draft, GarPax traded up for McDermott for reasons I still don’t get. Even still, Doug, as a rookie, was a wild card; and then he went out there and was bad and got hurt and then got worse. Your final wing was Snell, who while he showed a few flashes, looks like a guy who is more backup wing on an 8 seed, than back up wing on a Championship contender; there’s a huge difference between Snell* and Afflalo, Iman Shumpert, or a rejuvenated JR Smith as we all learned. The Bulls depth was only in the front court, there wasn’t any depth at the wing or guard position.

And this cost the Bulls all season. And it really cost the Bulls in the Cavs series where Cleveland was rolling out JR and Shump while the Bulls had Kirk and Snell. Anyone who thinks the Bulls had an advantage there is kidding themselves—yes GarPax, you’re kidding yourselves if you think the Bulls were good enough to win this season with only one two way wing player.

*I think Tony’s an NBA player, he might even become a pretty good back up. But it sure does seem that GarPax bet the house on Snell taking a Jimmy like jump in his second season, and when it didn’t happen, BLAME THIBS MOAR.


Most Interesting Things I’ve Read this Week:
--The other problem with Chicago's segregation: Concentrated wealth (The Connector: The blog of the Metropolitan Planning Council)
That University of Minnesota study we referenced earlier points in an interesting direction: They found that in the Twin Cities, federal housing dollars are spent equally across areas of wealth and areas of poverty. In low-income areas, federal investment comes in the form of housing vouchers and subsidized units. In wealthy areas, the mortgage-interest deduction provides the lion’s share of housing subsidy. In Chicago, where most affordable subsidized housing is on the South and West sides and rates of homeownership are highest in wealthy areas, it is clear that we are subsidizing our separation.

Back around tax time, I started thinking more in depth about the mortgage-interest deduction (what a hell of a function), then the Economist did their big thing on debt a month ago, and well… it’s all very interesting no? It’s very problematic, and nothing new either. This was a big topic back during the W years, and then of course it all came crashing down. The incentives are and have continued to be to rack up debt. And one of the unintended consequences, I can only hope, is continued segregation. ANYWAY, interesting read on how in some ways, not only to we accept segregation, we pretty much expect it too.


Two things here.
1. The Lead
I'm not sure we're living in an age of disruption, or just an age that badly wants to think itself disruptive, but either way there's been a lot of rethinking going on the past decade or so.
This has little to do with the actual article, but it’s an interesting thought. It’s true, we want to think of RIGHT NOW as disruptive, but maybe it isn’t? Sure everything is disruptive, but is right now “change the way we live” disruptive? For many who don’t live in the ‘first world’ I’m sure that’s true. For us that live in the ‘first world’, I’m not so sure.

2.
Instead, Thaler began to keep a list of things that people did that made a mockery of economic models of rational choice. There was the guy who planned to go to the football game, changed his mind when he saw it was snowing, and then, when he realized he had already bought the ticket, changed his mind again. There was the other guy who refused to pay $10 to have someone mow his lawn but wouldn't accept $20 to mow his neighbor's. There was the woman who drove 10 minutes to a store in order to save $10 on a $45 clock radio but wouldn't drive the same amount of time to save $10 on a $495 television. There were the people Thaler invited over to dinner, to whom he offered, before dinner, a giant bowl of nuts. They ate so many nuts they had no appetite for the far more appealing meal. The next time they came to dinner Thaler didn't offer nuts -- and his guests were happier.

While one of the places I worship at is the alter of the dismal science, one thing that always bothered me about economics (specifically intro), is the thought that people are rational. I’ve never bought this in full. Is it true most of the time? Sure. But my preferences change constantly, and because of that, so will my choices which messes with the entire idea of rationality. Today I wanted Corn Chex for breakfast, but it’s likely I won’t buy Corn Chex the next time I go to the store. That fact can break the model.

But again, that’s intro to micro. Eventually you get to behavior economics and, for me at least, it make sense. “Here we are… this is the world I know and live in.”

We’re only going to see more of the marriage of psychology and economics going forward. And I’m sure as we learn more, we’ll find more market failures. And with each market failure and solution to it, that’s where government can and will step in.

25.5.15

Week 7: Concern for the Sox? Sure, but not time to bail yet. And links

Sox
Fangraphs has a really nice review of Carlos Rodon’s first three starts. Must read for Sox fans. I went to the game on Wednesday, and Rodon loses the plate way too often. He does work quick and there weren’t too many hard hit balls. The talent is there, but until he finds the plate, he’s going to struggle.
===============
It’s Memorial Day, the point of the season that I start to look at the standings… and it’s ugly.


The Sox are not only 8 games behind a fairly fraudulent Royals team, but they also own one of the worst records in the AL. And to make matters even worse, they now own the worst run differential in the AL.


The good news? The AL is a tire fire. The Royals are playing so far above their heads and talent level, that their fall from grace will be swift and ugly. But they’re probably going to make the playoffs unless they play .400 baseball or something horrible like that. The AL East is Chernobyl-isque: it’s possible all of those teams are average. And the AL West features disappointing A’s, Angels, and Mariners teams. The young Astros hold the lead, but I have my doubts about their pitching.


The Twins and Tigers sit in the Wild Card positions. The Sox sit five games back of them. But more realistically, it’s going to take 89 or 90 wins to make the Wild Card. You might be able to slip in with even 87 considering that the Twins aren’t very good. The Sox need to play .562 baseball (91 win pace over an entire season) to reach 87 wins. Not impossible.


The Sox biggest issue is that they cannot beat the Twins: 3-7 against a team with much less talent than the Sox is a problem. While losing three of four to the Tribe earlier this week hurt, it doesn’t sting as much as once again playing horribly against the Twins. Blowing these games are going to cost them—it already has.


The Sox biggest problem is they cannot score runs. Dead last in the AL with 147 runs scored in 41 games, which works out to 3.58 a game. That’s not good.


The Sox offensive issues are obvious: they don’t walk, they don’t get on base, and they don’t hit for power. While Abreu has been fine if not quite what he was last year, Garcia has started strong even if it’s a bit BABIP inflated, and LaRoche has been perfectly average; the rest of the roster has been bad to horrible.


You could live with Conor Gillaspie’s bat if he was the 8th or 9th worse hitter. Instead he’s somehow the 4th best bat the Sox send out most days. Alexei, Flowers, whoever is playing second, Eaton, and Melky have been horrible. Eaton and Melky are currently in a race to see who can be the worst every day starter in the major leagues.*


*It’s fitting the Sox once again have a few guys in the race to “win” the Worst Everyday Player Award. Past recent finalists include:
2011 Rios
2011 Dunn
2013 Konerko
2012 Kippinger
2014 Viciedo


Could Melky and Eaton turn it around? SURE! They’re not bad baseball players! Eaton’s BABIP is still far below what it was last year and he needs to walk a little more, but he’s been much better in May.


Meanwhile, Melky is walking at the same rate that he has historically. But he too has been bit by the BABIP bug. Of more concern, is what happened to his power. Melky has one homer and two doubles. That isn’t going to cut it.


Both Eaton and Melky are too talented of players to continue to be this bad. We’re seeing some signs of life out of Eaton. We can only hope, now that the weather has finally turned, we’ll start seeing more out of Melky. If those two get going a bit, that sets the table for Abreu, LaRoche, and Avi which should lead to more runs, and more runs will lead to more wins since while this pitching staff is flawed, there is also a lot to like.


Last week was a bad week, and tough to swallow after the fantastic week prior. And while the Sox aren’t in great shape at the moment, they also haven’t dug themselves a huge hole. The playoffs are unlikely, but their not impossible.


Most Interesting Things I’ve Read this Week:
-- From the Charlotte Observer and echoing many here… we have reached PEAK #THANKSOBAMA. Let me tell you this guy…
Lang, a Republican, says he knew the act required him to get coverage but he chose not to do so. But he thought help would be available in an emergency. He and his wife blame President Obama and Congressional Democrats for passing a complex and flawed bill.


“(My husband) should be at the front of the line because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues,” Mary Lang said last week. “We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.”


...a 50 year old smoker with diabetes doesn’t buy health insurance and now wants to jump the line and have someone else pay for his health care but blames Obama. Sadly, like the Superfans, these people apparently exist.



Really excellent work from the always excellent Becky Vevea.




Never change Pete Townshend. Never change.




Most interesting here, imo, is that our growth cities of the late 20th century (i.e. the South and Southwest) aren’t like most growth cities of the 19th and early 20th century (i.e. East Coast, West Coast, and Rust Belt).


Or to put another way, Phoenix, Houston, and San Antonio look a lot different than New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Phoenix is very suburban, New York is very urban. This causes both cities to face vastly different policy issues and also have solutions to common policy issues which are unalike.

There are a number of reasons why Chicago might not be growing all that much, but to say “Do what they did in Houston!” might not be an actual policy solution for Chicago because Houston isn’t built like Chicago.

18.5.15

Week 6: Soto has the yips & the Mad Men Finale (mostly Mad Men)

Sox

Hey the Sox are back to .500 and Soto totally has the yips (I don't care what he says) and it’s the most amazing thing to watch in sports right now: Soto throwing the ball back to the pitcher. But that’s all the baseball talk for today because…



TV/Culture/Thoughts/Reviews


First off, dawned on me this weekend, but “The Suitcase”—for my money the best Mad Men episode and one of the best hours of TV—was the 46th episode of Mad Men. In total, there were 92 episodes of Mad Men. That’s right, “The Suitcase” was the halfway point of the series.


I don’t think Mad Men is structured as ring composition, but if so, even if loosely so, that’s pretty amazing: “The Suitcase”, the peak Don/Peggy episode for me, falls right in the middle, which often is the most important section of a story/epic set in a ring composition structure.


***Mad Men Spoilers***






As I’ve said, I haven’t been interested in Don Draper for a while. But he gets the ambiguous ending, one which everyone is talking about, so let’s dive into that.


My thoughts on Mad Men’s ending are starting to come together; I’m going to try and not say anything that has already been said, the numerous excellent reviews have already done that (here’s the New Yorker review which I don’t quote but is worth reading).


I fall into the Sepinwall camp regarding the ending: Don’s smirk is the killer idea he has, not some sort of inner peace he’s discovered/found.


However, I also don’t view this as cynical as others do. Sure the ending is cynical, but it isn't overly cynical. Don’s an asshole, we have a 92 hours of TV backing this up. To expect him to change just because he traveled across the country, ended up on a retreat, and did some yoga would, in my opinion, be missing the point of the previous 91 hours of the show. Don’s committed to change almost once a season, only to fall back into his old habits of being a shitty husband, a somewhat shitty dad*, a shitty co-worker, and often making poor, rash personal decisions that he would come to regret (‘sup Megan!).


*Don, oddly, does have his moments of being a very good dad, however, he is far too distant to ever be considered a good dad.


Don having a killer idea to sell the world Coca-Cola and not changing personally is true to the character. If anything, this is the first time that Don ‘gets’ the social change that the ‘60s has brought and will bring during the ‘70s. Don Draper wasn’t very good at his job the last latter half the 60s (or so it seemed). The Lucky Strike “It’s Toasted” tag occurs in 1960, the Kodak Carousel is 1961, GloCoat is 1964/1965, and Samsonite is 1965. In the late 60s, Megan and Peggy are the two who are leading the charge: they come up with the ideas for Burger Chef and Heinz (beans that is; ketchup is Don’s idea, but it is not picked). Don’s work (Ginsberg really) on Jaguar has nothing to do with SCDP being picked. As has been regularly pointed out, the world passes Don Draper by as the 60s progress: he suddenly turns off “Tomorrow Never Knows” remember.




But something begins to click with Don after his phone call with Peggy. Sure he’s been rejected by his future (Sally), his past as Dick (Stephanie), and his past as Don (Betty) prior to the call with Peggy. As the AV Club review highlights wonderfully, the conversation with Peggy, who tells him to come home (advertising is the only home he has at this point) is a turning point. Listening to Leonard puts him over the top. But this doesn’t (necessarily) mean Don (or Dick) has realized anything about himself, instead, maybe Don just figured out that as the dream of the 60s dies, he can… actually take it away John Teti


After the nuclear-family utopia of the ’50s failed to eliminate all of society’s ills, Don’s nostalgic ads promised that products would make the lost fantasy real. Now that the ’60s vision of perfect harmony has frayed, Don will once again convince a nationwide audience that consumer goods can make up the difference between the ideal and the reality. Coca-Cola will teach the world to sing.


And that’s why I don’t think Don changed. I don’t think he came to any sort of enlightenment. Dick is not gone. Nor has Dick been rediscovered. I think he’ll continue to struggle with all his demons and depression through the ‘70s. If the end of the show, originally, was supposed to be Season 6’s closing shot of Don coming to terms with who he is, where he came from, and telling his kids (Sally) who he truly is… then why would Weiner change his entire point of view of Don Draper in the 7th season? I’ll let Roy Edroso take it away (emphasis mine): 


Don has always been an empath who, because of his emotional damage, is uniquely attuned to the pain of average citizens, and when he sees a valuable crop of it he gets in there and grabs and holds it close to drain its essence. And then turns it into a commercial. He is what America has instead of artists. And that's why, despite all the historical signifiers that made the show look like the chronicle of a New Day Dawning, nothing much has really changed. Don has not rediscovered Dick Whitman -- he has, after a crisis of confidence, rediscovered Don Draper. And gone back at work.


I get the desire of us wanting Don to be a good person, for finding some sort of peace. Or accepting some sort of himself and changing for the better. But he never does. Even if Don/Dick has found some sort of peace, does anyone think he’ll now become a good father? If anything he'll still be a minor player in their lives. And does anyone think that he won’t fall into another relationship that’s bad for him? That he’ll now stop making rash decisions? That he'll stop drinking too much? 

We’ve seen Don hit rock bottom then bounce back up (like the opening credits, as pretty much everyone has pointed out by now): Season 2 with Betty, much of Season 4 but specifically his binge drinking weekend, much of Season 6 where he ends up getting fired from the firm he co-founded because he was a drunk that was costing them business, “Meet the Mets” and Lou Avery in the first half of Season 7… and each time after hitting rock bottom, Don didn’t really change. Why would he now after his road trip across America and hippie retreat? And that’s where I’m at, Don didn’t find peace and he isn’t changing, as Tom and Lorenzo say:


b) He dreams up the Coke ad there on the spot, based on everything he’s experienced recently, which is perfectly par for the course with the Don Draper we’ve been watching for the last 8 years; the one whose very best ads have always come from some deep place inside himself… He will win awards, become a legend of the advertising industry and the Golden Boy of McCann-Erickson, make even more money, and live happily ever after – at least until the next emotional crisis comes along and he has yet another meltdown because he hasn’t effectively dealt with all of his shit, still drinks too much and only sees his abandoned children sporadically. But who knows? Maybe the next breakdown will give the world “I Heart NY.” Or the Reagan presidency. Don Draper will continue ever on, unchanged, but still a genius in his own way, plumbing the depths of his psyche to sell more sugar water.


This is the Don Draper we know. And I suspect that’s the Don Draper that will continue. We may want something else for Don, but of course, it’s not up to us.


That said, as Todd VanDerWerff points out, the ending can be happy and cynical. I agree. And that’s why, despite my concerns a few weeks ago, I think it was an excellent finale. I mean even if Don will continue making the same mistakes and being the same person, well, as Rust Cohle said:


I respect that Weiner didn't give us the ending for Don we might have wanted. He gave us the ending that Don Draper wanted.

=====

As for everyone else in the show… I enjoyed the hell out of it. The various Joan scenes in particular were wonderful.

I see the argument that everyone got too nice of a send off (save Betty, and note that Megan did not appear in the finale), but such an argument is a bit cheap. Mad Men was never tidy, but stories have to end. In life there are always loose ends, in fiction there usually isn’t.

Finally, check out this NY Times story on Bill Backer, the guy who came up with the Coke commercial. If I have one issue with the finale, it's fictional Don Draper getting credit for something that a real person wrote... it feels a little too out there for me. That I'd like to sit with some more.