O'Donnell: Could this be Theo Epstein's finale with Cubs?

THE IVY-TINGED TEA LEAVES, intermingled with the vine lines, are all there.

And it doesn't take a Madame Ruth - you know that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth - to strongly suspect that the 2019 season will be Theo Epstein's last as president of baseball operations for the Cubs.

Rationale abounds.

Critical core: At age 45, Epstein is approaching the prime of his career. In MLB, he is universally acknowledged as being as good as it gets. So why should be continue to work for anyone else, especially an organization tearing at the seams on multiple imaging fronts above a roster era that could quite likely be arced out?

If he is not somewhere on the trolley toward becoming chairman and managing partner of another MLB team - in a perfect scenario with a majority ownership stake - he is doing himself, his professional ceiling and his family a disservice.

And intellectual omission has never been a fungo on any field of possibilities overseen by Theo Epstein.

In October 2011, as he was leaving the Red Sox for the Cubs, Epstein wrote an Op-Ed piece for The Boston Globe. In it, he said:

"Football legend Bill Walsh used to say that coaches and executives should seek change after 10 years with the same team. The theory is that both the individual and the organization benefit from a change after so much time together. The executive gets rebirth and the energy that comes with a new challenge; the organization gets a fresh perspective, and the chance for true change that comes with new leadership.

"This idea resonated with me."

The idea should. Especially when Epstein thinks about Joe Ricketts - who has proved that rich doesn't necessarily mean savvy. Or when he deals with the social contrails of an Addison Russell, two years after the same regarding Aroldis Chapman. Or when he considers the potential Cub Nation gang-planking that could be engendered by the new Marquee Sports Network.

And the open endedness of Joe Maddon's future? Could it be that Epstein is simply allowing the window to hire to pass to his successor in the Cubs executive suite?

Oh yeah, but … he's in the middle of a five-year, $45 million contract extension announced in October, 2016. And everyone knows how sacred sports contracts at the executive / coach / manager levels are.

When's the last time one went to court to be enforced? In Chicago, was it back in 1966 when George Halas sued George Allen, won and then let his ace mastermind detail on out to the L.A. Rams anyway?

Epstein loves words. He undoubtedly is aware of Bill Veeck's enduring: "The fun is in building, not holding on with a team."

Epstein has built. Epstein has proved his genius travels. He killed the goat at Wrigley after shattering "The Curse" at Fenway.

The tea leaves say, "Soon." The Epstein family exchequer could say, "Gold, good, go."

The vine lines will always have 2016.

IT'S BLACK HISTORY MONTH, always a fine time to think about asking Jim Rose to lunch. But for those of the more elasticized mind, a superb watch is Netflix's current "The Two Killings of Sam Cooke."

The documentary centers on the tragi-starred pop music master, who was on his way to being Berry Gordy before Berry Gordy. All ended when Cooke, 33, was shot to death under most curious circumstances at a seedy Watts motel in December 1964.

A primary sports connection is Jim Brown - who is among the keenly kinetic interviewees, seamlessly linking the archived to the contemporary to the what-could-have-been.

Brown touches upon an evening for the ages - Feb. 25, 1964. That was when young Cassius Clay upset Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight championship.

Cooke had already recorded a single with Clay titled "The Gang's All Here" with plans for more (YouTube "sam cooke cassius clay"). According to Brown, after the bout, he, Cooke, the soon-to-be Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X celebrated into the night with conversation and vanilla ice cream in a room at a Miami Beach motel.

Within 12 months, both Cooke and Malcolm X would be shot dead.

STREET-BEATIN': Michael Jordan turns 56 Sunday (56!). Please send all birthday blackjack playing tips c/o The Charlotte Hit Me Group, 60023. … He might deny it for now, but Steve Dahl - no casual sports fan during his 40-year run as a Chicago radio visionary - is working on his autobiography. Biggest coho hurdle, according to some chums, is that The Stever is reaching out to fill in some blanks from his fog years. (Hey, those things happen.) … Nick Faldo of CBS spotlights Adam Hadwin as one to climb at this weekend's $7.4 million Genesis Open from Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades: "Steady, no fuss and a very good putter."… Zach Zaidman should be on the short list to replace Neil Funk as a Bulls gamecaster. The Zach-of-all-trades has become a crisp play-by-play man, almost the poor man's Jim Durham. … Scott Coles, a 34-year-old futures trader from Grayslake, won the $800,000 first prize at the $2.8 million National Horseplayers Championship in Las Vegas. Palatine's George Henning - a master home enhancer and craftsman who is impossible to get an appointment with (unless you put his name in a sports & media column) - finished a no-cashew 311th out of 668. … Reggie Miller will be front and center when TNT begins its three-night coverage of the NBA All-Star weekend at 8 p.m. Friday (game 6 p.m. Sunday). The lasered bombardier spoke to a core new-mill media reality when he quipped, "We all work for TMZ now."

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