Like knuckleballers, submariners exist as a tribe in the baseball wastelands, migrating from region to region, briefly surfacing to sign minor league deals, make major league appearances, or pillage and set fire to once-peaceful hamlets.
"Whatever happened to that nice little burgh a few miles here?" people ask each other over coffee.
And their friends all look down and mutter something along the lines of, "We don't talk about that place. Submariners got it."
Then maybe a cantankerous old man who has been coming to the cafe for years breaks the silence with an outburst like, "Damn under-throwers just want to turn the whole world upside-down so it matches their weird bodies!"
The Phillies usually employ more traditional hurlers, staying clear of knucklers and sidewinders, but, perhaps not understanding the powers at play here, they quite recently have turned to a submariner of their own. Greg Burke hails from Marlton, NJ, making this territory familiar to him, after spending most of his pitching career on the west coast.
The 33-year-old right-hander has appeared in two seasons of major league baseball: 48 games for the 2009 Padres and 32 games for the 2013 Mets. Through that time, he's stacked a 4.77 ERA with 4.4 BB/9, 7.1 SO/9, 1.61 SO/W, and -1.4 WAR.
It's the minors where he's dwelled the most since 2005, including last year, when he drifted from the AA to the AAA levels of the Blue Jays system and his numbers looked better (2.63 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 9.6 SO/9, 3.67 SO/W). Has he been down there plotting revenge on a society that abandoned him? That's a question only Burke can answer, and reporters refuse to ask. We only know that being a submariner, there is the chance for something weird and/or horrifying happening when he takes the field.
Take for instance past Phillies submariner Kent Tekulve, the holder of baseball records such as "most losses without surrendering any runs," as well as "most intentional walks." There's a guy pitching for the Lancaster Barnstormers, Shunsuke Watanabe, whose release is so low he has to wear a special pad under his uniform so he doesn't destroy his knee. And yes, it is a submarine pitcher who is responsible for baseball's only on-field fatality.
The new and progressive Phillies have employed all manner of tactics as they push forward. A supercomputer named PHIL is one thing, but tinkering with baseball's dark arts? Who knows where this will lead. The question is, why not just ask the supercomputer? [Editor's Note: The answer is, "because that's not how computers work"]