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Murph: Spirits are high at Giants spring training, but can these guys win?


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz — Yeah, it’s great being down here in the desert, all Cactus League-y, and wolfing ribs at Don & Charlie’s, and exchanging radio thoughts with the thoughtful Jeff Samardzjia and talking about being a hippie with Corey Gearrin and seeing Pablo Sandoval earnestly try to win back Giants fans while holding a KNBR microphone. The sunrises are beautiful and everyone is happy.

But we always come back to the same spring training question when we’re down here:

Can these guys win games?

So far, my thoughts run two ways.

One, there are a fair amount of questions, enough to make one uneasy. Primarily: is the reliance on veterans too dependent on long-term health? Is the back end of the bullpen any good? Is Johnny Cueto, delayed again this spring, going to be ready to roll? Are Ty Blach and Chris Stratton ready to lock down big league hitters on a consistent basis? And, seeing the Giants run the bases poorly and miss cutoff men this early in spring, is the team committed on a fundamental level?

Enough to cause a slight cloud to pass over the Arizona sun, right?

The other thought, though, is more big picture, and the Giants come out on the positive end.

In an MLB landscape where March is arriving and big free agents like Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas (among many) remain unsigned; in an MLB landscape where teams are doing all but saying the words “We’re tanking”; in an MLB landscape where four teams, including our very own Oakland A’s, are being sued by the players’ union for not spending revenue-sharing checks, at least the Giants have saddled up for a run at October.

In short, the Giants are trying to win.

Yes, of course, it’s the least a sports franchise can do, in terms of the social contract. You are a team. You have fans. You play games. You try to win. It seems like a pretty low bar to clear. And yet, there are teams all over the league (coughTampaBaycoughPittsburghcoughOaklandcoughMiami) where that bar is too high.

So one of the big takeaways from spring so far is that the Giants, at the very least, are making a run at this thing, and it seems to be something the players don’t take for granted. They all seem heartened by it, and happy to be on a team in the mix.

You can argue that the front office should go over the $197 luxury tax threshold, considering the park is paid off and they draw 3.3 million a year, and you might not be wrong. But at the least, being surrounded by a team here in Scottsdale that, according to the web site Spotrac, has the second highest payroll in baseball, should give Giants fans some comfort.

Is Andrew McCutchen the player he once was? No. Is Evan Longoria on the back nine of his career? Probably. Is Hunter Pence a question mark at age 35? Yep. Do the Giants have a true center fielder? Not yet, no.

All of these questions are legitimate, and hang over Scottsdale.

But at least the question of where the Giants’ intentions lie is not a question. They are making a run at it. They are one of the few. For that, we should raise our $14 beer in salute and see if this fragile concoction can’t produce some summertime magic.