Royals fire GM Baird; Moore hired
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Had he been willing to wait, Dayton Moore might one day have headed one of the most admired organizations in baseball.
Instead, he chose to leave Atlanta and become general manager of the woeful Kansas City Royals, a team that hasn't sniffed the postseason in 21 years.
The fast-rising Moore accepted a challenging job Wednesday, taking the reins in Kansas City after the club fired GM Allard Baird.
"If I didn't think we would win a world championship in Kansas City, there is no way I would commit myself and my family to this environment," said the 39-year-old Moore, who last year became Atlanta's assistant general manager for baseball operations.
"To me, this is the perfect opportunity for me to be a general manager, do something I love to do and build something special and give my family an opportunity to thrive. That's simply what it is."
Moore declined to discuss terms of his contract, which was believed to be for four years beyond this season. He did indicate he was given complete responsibility for baseball decisions, something Baird had to share with team president Dan Glass, the son of owner David Glass.
"I feel very comfortable with the autonomy I've been given as general manager of the Kansas City Royals to not only get the answers that we need but also the flexibility to go forward and make decisions and do what needs to be done to be successful," Moore said.
Atlanta has won a record 14 consecutive division titles, and Moore was considered a leading candidate to become GM of the Boston Red Sox last year until he withdrew after being invited for a second interview.
Braves general manager John Schuerholz said he tried to keep Moore in Atlanta, with an eye toward Moore possibly succeeding him one day.
"We went down fighting," the 65-year-old Schuerholz told The Associated Press. "I was trying to convince him to hang on for a few more years till I hang up my spurs and be considered for this job. We made a strong offer to keep him. But he feels he's ready to move on and take on this important challenge."
Running the Royals should be enough challenge for anyone. They are 13-38, the worst record in the majors, and on pace to lose at least 100 games for the fourth time in five years.
Plagued by weak drafts, unproductive trades and a general drift throughout the organization, the Royals have established themselves the past few seasons as one of the most unsuccessful franchises in professional sports. They have not appeared in the postseason since winning the World Series in 1985 -- with Schuerholz as general manager and a teenage Moore standing outside the stadium craning his neck to see.
Moore, a Wichita, Kan., native, said he has special memories of the seventh game that year against St. Louis because he was outside the ballpark on the left-field side watching the action.
"I've been with the Atlanta Braves for 12 years," he said from Atlanta on a conference call. "I absolutely love and adore this organization, the Atlanta Braves and the people I've grown up with."
But he was drawn, he said, to "the great baseball fans, the great tradition there in Kansas City and the wonderful atmosphere and a climate to raise my family."
Baird's dismissal was expected since David Glass said on May 4 that he was disgusted with the team's performance and would soon make "significant changes."
But the process took much longer than he expected. And the former Wal-Mart CEO, already under fire from irritated fans, was taking severe criticism for not making a move.
The monthlong wait for something to happen proved a distraction that weighed heavily on the team and the front office, which is preparing to make the No. 1 selection in the amateur draft on June 6.
"Obviously, it's quite a distraction when things like this are going on," manager Buddy Bell said Wednesday in Oakland, Calif., where the Royals lost 7-0 to the Athletics. "Our guys have handled it pretty well. I know it affects them, but they hid it pretty well. Allard Baird is a dear friend of mine."
Because the timing of the draft poses a potential conflict of interest, Moore will assume his new duties on Jan. 8 after it's over.
Moore said he will be involved with the Braves' draft process but will not take part in personnel discussions or make decisions.
"He's going to make a great GM," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "He's got everything: people skills, smart, played baseball, he coached baseball. He's been an executive now for years. He's one of the most sought-after guys in all baseball."
Muzzy Jackson, the interim general manager, will run the draft for the Royals along with personnel director Deric Ladnier.
Scouting director Roy Clark will make the decisions for the Braves.
"Dayton is not going to put himself in a position to impugn the integrity of this organization or his new organization," Schuerholz said. "What role he plays in the draft will be up to all of us. We will measure the appropriateness of it."
Baird might have been fired just as his program was on the threshold of bearing fruit. There are several promising prospects at Double-A Wichita this year, including infielder Alex Gordon, who was taken as the No. 2 pick in last year's draft.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press