Chipper Jones plans to return next season

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Chipper Jones has mentioned the possibility of retirement in the past, leading some to speculate that he would consider walking away following this season. Well, he told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier today that he has every intention of honoring the final guaranteed year on his contract.

“I’m playing next year,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday. “I still feel like I can go out there and play a good third base and be a threat, at least, at the plate. I’m having a good defensive year and the [batting] average is on the rise.”

Jones, who turns 40 next April, is owed $13 million next season in the final guaranteed year of his three-year, $42 million contract extension. His contract includes a club option for 2013, though it could automatically vest if he appears in 123 games next season or averages 127 games played between 2011 and 2012. Jones hasn’t ruled out playing in 2013, but will wait until next season to decide.

While Jones has battled the regular bumps and bruises this season and missed three weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, the switch-hitting third baseman is batting .275/.347/.466 with 12 homers, 56 RBI and an .813 OPS over 336 plate appearances. In fact, he has homered in each of the past two nights. Compare that to average major league third baseman, who has an ugly .248/.312/.379 batting line and a .691 OPS. He’ll stick around as long as he’s still healthy enough to hit.

If there is an ALCS Game 7, Ric Flair will call out “Play Ball!”

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I don’t really care who wins the ALCS, but part of me wants to see it go seven games now. Why? Because if the Astros win tonight and force a Game 7, the series will be visited by a Rolex-wearin,’ kiss-stealin,’ wheelin-dealin,’ limousine ridin,’ jet flyin,’ son of a gun, jack! From the Chronicle:

The Astros-Yankees American League Championship Series gets to a Game 7, the Astros will have pro wrestling superstar Ric Flair call out “Play Ball!” before the game in a video message. Astros right fielder Josh Reddick is a huge wrestling fan and uses Flair’s entrance music every time he steps to the plate at Minute Maid Park. Fans also have adopted the wrestler’s “Woo!” yell throughout the season.

That’s pretty cool. It’d be even cooler if it ended with a Dusty Finish.