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On the Astros: Payroll is important because payroll=playoffs

Spending money remains important, even if it's about spending money smartly.

Bob Levey

Why do fans grouse so much about the Astros low payroll for the past few years? Why do we write about it every time Jim Crane suggests Houston will gain payroll next season? It's because of things like this Aaron Gleeman tweet.

Teams have made the playoffs before with low payrolls. The Rays are obviously one low-money contender. The Rockies from 2007 had a payroll of only $54 million.

But, the bottom line is that talent costs money and teams with talent usually make the playoffs. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but a general guideline. The odds of a team succeeding with a modest payroll are long.

Those kooky, scrappy Cardinals teams, filled with young kids? In each of the past four years when the Cards have made it to the NLCS at least, they have also spent over $100 million. Only twice since 2006 have the Cardinals spent less than $90 million. Both times, they were within $2 million of that mark.

Being successful has never been about spending money willy-nilly. It's about smartly investing your resources. But, a team needs those resources to succeed, to invest in.

Maybe the Astros didn't have the resources to succeed. Maybe they didn't have the talent to invest in that could turn them into a contender, even if they didn't bottom out. But, don't expect them to suddenly become the Rays, competing with the big boys despite a modest spending profile.

No one wants the Astros to go back to the days of signing Woody Williams, Jeff Kent and Brandon Lyon. The Astros just need big league talent to invest in.