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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.