Hideki Irabu killed himself during Hope Week.
I'm not sure what that means. Here's my best take: In the end, hope is like a garage sale. One man's antique chandelier piece is another's old Pepsi bottle. Sometimes, the notion that we're all expected to rally around hope is what instills in us the most intense dread of all. That's life, that's what the people say. Every year now, the Yankees bundle up a bunch of heartwarming stories and hold a week-long pageant of happiness and compassion - and I guess there's nothing wrong with trying to do good, eh?
But in an age when corporations have the cash and legal right to buy elections, acts of corporate kindness always involve a camera crew and Kleenex. Hope Week's pre-game shows are like the last story each night on the network news, the tear-jerker about some plucky old vet who sticks flags on graves - (God bless him!) - but as most of the guys in those graves learned, when people shout something a thousand times, it's often because they don't believe it themselves. Hate to be hopeless in Hope Week. But I root for the Yankee team and the generally lovable confusion of humanity that wears the pinstripes - I have since age 4 and will until the day I'm in the ground. But I shall never trust the Yankee corporation, because as Frank Miller has Mickey Rourke say in "Sin City," I was born at night, but I was not born last night.
Tonight, to open Hope Week, the first 18,000 Yankee guests will receive a card entitling them to free Frank Sinatra music downloads, courtesy of Universal Music. Wednesday, the first 18,000 kids will get a Yankee Coloring Book, courtesy of Party City. Friday is Budweiser's Yankee Water Bottle Night. Did the corporations pay extra to be a part of Hope Week? I doubt it's a coincidence.
The week ends with push-button-emotion afternoons to honor Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. Their numbers - (20 and 46, but you knew that, right?) - will be retired. Certainly, both were great Yankees, though neither will make the Hall. But if Posada and Pettitte are the new bar for retiring numbers, the Yankees will be mathematically eliminated from the game by 2030.
I have limited hopes for Hope Week. The Yankees won't cure world hunger or obesity. But the week launches a soft 16-game stretch - three against the Twins (who are fading), then four with Cleveland, who we need to put down like a snarly doberman. Then it's Houston for three - not as tough as we thought they were - then Atlanta and Boston. We must go at least 10-6, and even then, we might fall into second place. In early September, we revisit the AL East - including the seven against the Bleu Cheese. By then Hope Week will be a memory. But we will still have hope.
And I assume the Yankees, over the next seven days, will install a protective cordon around Kei Igawa.