ATLANTA -- The Braves' new boss wants the team to sharply improve its game - off the field.
Terry McGuirk, who replaced Stan Kasten as Braves president six days ago, is placing a renewed focus on marketing and business operations. He promised an immediate top-to-bottom "audit" of all of the team's functions except the ones headed by general manager John Schuerholz.
"John Schuerholz in many ways embodies on the player personnel side all of the critical thinking and excellence we want," McGuirk told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I can't say the other side of the Atlanta Braves business has been operating at the same level.
"We want a marketing, sales and operation aspect that has every bit as much excellence as what John has provided on the player personnel side."
The Braves have had six consecutive seasons of gradually declining attendance, falling from 3.5 million to 2.4 million despite winning division championships every year.
"We take it as a message," McGuirk said of the attendance drop.
McGuirk said "We're going to break every egg we can break to get better solutions on how to make this game more attractive for our fans."
On Friday, McGuirk moved two executives whom he regards highly from other Turner Broadcasting units into the Braves' front office. He named Turner Sports executive vice president (and former Goodwill Games president) Mike Plant as the Braves' executive VP of business operations, and named Thrashers vice president Derek Schiller as the Braves' senior VP of sales and marketing.
"This franchise has had so little change 1/8 in the front office 3/8 . . . for so long," McGuirk said, "because we have relied on the team winning games without maybe giving fans other reasons to come."
Schuerholz, Plant and Schiller will report directly to McGuirk, who in the past week also has assumed the title of Braves chairman. Bill Bartholomay is now chairman emeritus.
"The buck stops with me on the Atlanta Braves," McGuirk said.
The 52-year-old McGuirk has been with Turner Broadcasting since 1972, was the company's CEO from 1996 until early 2001 and had been Kasten's boss since 1990. Although McGuirk remains Turner Broadcasting vice chairman, the Braves now become the main focus of his job.
McGuirk also acknowledged the team's payroll will go down in 2004, although he wouldn't say by how much.
"We will not be profitable next year" even with the reduced payroll, he said, "but the goal is to have some blend of good sense and . . . a heck of a team. "We're going to have a heck of a team, I'm not worried about that."