John Schuerholz, 50, whose Kansas City Royals were among the American League leaders for 10 years, became executive vice president and general manager of the Atlanta Braves yesterday.

He had been general manager of the Royals since 1981 and led them to a World Series title in 1985. Under him, they won the AL West three times and never finished lower than third until this season's sixth-place finish.

"Whatever horror stories you may have thought I've read or heard about the Braves, I have the confidence in my ability to get the job done," he said. "I'm not making any promises, and there's no timetable. I don't believe in a quick fix."

He replaces Bobby Cox, who remains as manager. The Royals picked Spencer "Herk" Robinson, the team's executive vice president for administration, as Schuerholz's replacement.

Cox, who had been Braves' general manager since 1985, took over as manager after firing Russ Nixon on June 22 with the team at 25-40.

Under Cox, the Braves were 40-57 and finished at 65-97 -- the worst record in the major leagues. They were last in the National League West for the fourth time in five years.

"I drew up a list of criteria and he {Schuerholz} was at the top of each individual measure," Braves President Stan Kasten said. "He was our number one candidate. We got the very best guy we could, and the only one I offered the job to."

Schuerholz joined the Royals in 1968 as an administrative assistant. In 1976 he became director of player development and in 1979 was named vice president-player personnel before taking over as general manager in 1981. Wild Thing

New York Yankees outfielder Mel Hall faces possible fines after his arrest on charges that he kept two wild cougar cubs as pets at his Fairfield, Conn., home.

He was arrested at the Fairfield police station Saturday and was charged with two counts each of possession of a potentially dangerous animal and importing a wild animal without a permit, said Sgt. Thomas Daniels of the state Department of Environmental Protection's Law Enforcement Bureau.

The 1-year-old male and female cougar kittens were confiscated in July after state officials acted on an anonymous complaint. The kittens are temporarily staying at a West Hartford children's museum.

Daniels called the case of the cougars "fairly unusual," but said there is a trade for taking animals out of the wild and making them pets.

"In many cases these animals are defanged and declawed and are never able to return to the wild," he said.

The animals were underweight and "glassy eyed" when they were turned over to the Science Museum of Connecticut, said Hank Gruner, director of the department of environmental science.

Hall said the animals were pets. When asked if he would keep cougars again, Hall said: "If I do, it won't be at this address."

Daniels said the case will proceed as any other criminal matter and that Hall may either plead innocent or guilty to the charges. If Hall pleads guilty or is found guilty, Daniels said a fine could be levied. The usual amount is a few hundred dollars for each count. There is no jail term associated with first offenses, said Daniels.