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posted: 8/23/2012 9:20 PM

Epstein can't change Cubs culture overnight

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Groucho Marx might not have been the first to voice such sentiment, but he was often credited with having said, "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.''

Makes you think of some Chicago Cubs players of the last few seasons.

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Would you really want an aging, veteran player on your roster who wants to be here despite the knowledge that winning may be several years away, and that losing is a guarantee?

This is one of the many contradictions Theo Epstein is trying to deal with in his first year with the Cubs.

Obviously, he wants someday to make this a destination for winners, a place free agents want to play if given the choice and a pushcart full of cash.

But what he has found in Chicago is a place called Wrigley Field, where players never want to leave. It is so cozy, comfortable, relaxed and lacking pressure to win that veteran players even at the end of their careers won't search out greener pastures.

After all, they can make millions upon millions, play day baseball, get treated like royalty, never pay for a meal and rarely fret about minor details like winning or producing.

Still, it's stunning that a player would pass on a chance to win when it might be his last opportunity for a ring, just to stay and bathe in the love of adoring Cubs fans.

"I see where you're coming from, and I feel a lot of those same things,'' Epstein told us on the Score's "Hit and Run'' show Sunday. "At the same time for a lot of them there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes, personal, family situations that trumps what's going on for them professionally.''

Many times, however, it is as simple as the desire to stay in a place where losing is OK for men of a certain age and character.

"I will say this though,'' Epstein continued, "to the extent that the Cubs culture has been really comfortable for players, and the way they're received around town and their status around town has made it appealing for them to stay, we'd almost like to turn that on its head and make winning and competitiveness the reason why players want to be here and want to stay here.

"I think we'll have accomplished a lot when we get to that point.''

Give Epstein credit for walking a fine line here. He's careful not to criticize players on his roster and doesn't want to be thought of as a baseball boss who blasts his own guys.

Epstein has too much class for that, and there's little to be gained from such a move.

But with that answer Epstein has thrown a giant bone to Cubs fans who despise a losing culture, who hate the notion that players prefer comfort and losing over a change in lifestyle and a chance for a World Series ring.

There has been entirely too much of that attitude on the North Side for too many years, and the time for comfort is over.

Losers need not apply.

Players should want to play here not because it's a soft landing spot but instead because they want to win.

That, of course, should go without saying, but after the last few years it needs to be said.

That's why Theo Epstein seized on the opportunity to say it.

And Cubs fans should be glad he did.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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