Five weeks after Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner announced the cancellation of the 2020 season, he disbanded the MiLB committee that was handling negotiations with Major League Baseball over the future structure and governance of the minors.
ESPN confirmed a report Monday night by Baseball America that said O'Conner installed a new committee -- including Triple-A team presidents Sam Bernabe of the Iowa Cubs and Ken Schnacke of the Columbus Clippers -- that is "viewed by numerous MiLB owners as having much closer ties to O'Conner and more sympathetic to attempts to save St. Petersburg's MiLB offices and MiLB's independence."
The pandemic has put talks on hold between MiLB and MLB over their agreement that expires Sept. 30. MLB, which provides the players and coaches and pays their salaries, has proposed reducing the number of affiliated teams from 160 to 120 and eliminating some low-level minor leagues.
Contacted Monday night by ESPN, Bernabe said the new committee also includes D.G. Elmore Jr., a holdover from the disbanded group, and Chuck Greenberg, the former managing partner of the Texas Rangers. Elmore and Greenberg both own multiple minor league teams.
"We want to get a deal," Bernabe said.
One minor league owner reached by ESPN said O'Conner broke the news to the members of the disbanded committee via email on Monday after MLB had been informed of the change.
A member of the MiLB board of trustees told ESPN that O'Conner sent an email memo to the board Monday saying the new negotiating committee would be developing a proposal for delivery "directly to the Commissioner [Rob Manfred] in confidence." Several sources told ESPN that when the disbanded committee was engaged in talks with MLB, they were with deputy commissioner Dan Halem and executive vice president Morgan Sword.
Through a spokesperson, O'Conner declined comment.
When the MiLB season was canceled on June 30, O'Conner said the minors are in "dire straits" and that perhaps half of all teams would have trouble surviving without financial help.