Commissioner Rob Manfred faces test over cracking down on cheating MLB teams

Astros GM: We'll figure out what the facts are (1:15)

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow vows that the organization will investigate the claims of sign stealing and is hopeful these allegations won't mar the team's success. (1:15)

The Houston Astros memes and Christian Yelich's full-on blast of Yu Darvish have obscured the big picture in the sign-stealing cheating scandal. The key takeaway is that teams and players routinely ignore commissioner Rob Manfred's authority, treating him like he's a white-belted high school crossing guard incapable of controlling them or someone they believe will be unwilling to come down with a disciplinary hammer.

Consider the timeline of what took place in the last three months of the 2017 season. In August of that year, the New York Yankees accused the Boston Red Sox of violating baseball's rule against using technology in their dugout in order to decode pitch-calling sequences for the hitters, with baserunners used as the conduit for the information. In mid-September, Manfred closed the case by fining both teams -- the Yankees were determined to have used a dugout phone improperly in a prior season -- and offered some stern words in a news release: "Moreover, all 30 Clubs have been notified that future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions, including the possible loss of draft picks."

Sounds pretty serious, right? Well, the Astros were so concerned about the specter of looming discipline that, according to Mike Fiers' reveal in The Athletic, they continued to use technology to steal signs and clue in the hitters to the identity of the forthcoming pitch. Within the context of what had already occurred, the Astros basically thumbed their noses at Manfred's dictum, with a conspiracy of breathtaking brazenness.