CINCINNATI, OCT. 17 -- When the Oakland Athletics traded for Willie McGee in late August, they did so more out of necessity than desire. Two months later, the A's apparently believe that the deal was one they might have been better off not making.

In McGee, Oakland officials thought they were getting a solid defensive center fielder and a speedy No. 2 hitter to complement Rickey Henderson at the top of the lineup. What they've seen, however, is an unsteady, sometimes indifferent outfielder whose offensive style has proven more detrimental to Henderson than troublesome to opponents.

McGee's shortcomings at the plate were glaring Tuesday during Oakland's 7-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the World Series. On the surface, the performance wasn't so bad: one for five, with a single and a stolen base -- about par for the Athletics' dismantling at the hands of Jose Rijo, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers.

The irritating part was that Henderson was on base four times, and on each occasion McGee swung at the first pitch to come his way. "This guy just doesn't comprehend what the hitter behind Rickey Henderson should be doing," one Oakland player said today. "How can you go up there just hacking away and not give Rickey a chance to run?" For a good deal of his St. Louis Cardinals career, McGee batted second behind Vince Coleman, also a spectacular base stealer.

Henderson refused to comment on the situation, but McGee's free swinging caused a few icy stares to be directed toward the Oakland dugout Tuesday. Manager Tony La Russa said he doesn't try to alter any player's batting style dramatically and that McGee "saw pitches he thought he could hit, so he swung away."

Said McGee: "I'm an aggressive hitter, and I went after what looked good. Maybe I'm not the best second-place hitter, but I can't change my whole approach overnight."

With left-hander Danny Jackson starting for the Reds tonight, McGee was benched in favor of Dave Henderson -- whose injury led to McGee's acquisition. Carney Lansford batted in the No. 2 spot tonight, when Henderson stole second in the first inning.

McGee is eligible for free agency after the season, and the A's now seem inclined to let him go. "If he goes, he goes," General Manager Sandy Alderson said recently. "We'll take the {compensatory} draft choices and make do."

Schottzie Noses In

Another Schottzie-induced fiasco ensued during tonight's ceremonial first pitch by Barbara Bush. The St. Bernard of Reds owner Marge Schott was led away from the First Lady after sniffing her skirt, and confusion followed.

Bush exchanged a kiss with Reds Manager Lou Piniella. Not to be outdone, A's Manager Tony La Russa rushed out for equal treatment -- but was headed off and kissed by Schott. Then La Russa, a noted animal-rights activist, halted matters to have his picture taken with Schottzie.

Rijo Takes Heat

The series' rhetoric heated up today. Rijo tried to softpedal his way around his Tuesday statement that Cincinnati's National League Championship Series victims, the Pittsburgh Pirates, might be "tougher than Oakland."

Said Rijo: "I meant tougher to me, because all of the left-handed hitters that Pittsburgh has gave me a lot of trouble. . . . But Oakland is the best team in baseball, no doubt."

The A's, however, were unmoved. "I was glad to see them do a lot of talking after winning one game," right fielder Jose Canseco said. "It will make things sweeter for us in the end. . . . All they did was extend things to six games."

Reporter Arrested

An Associated Press reporter, Ronald Blum, was arrested after tonight's game for an incident that occurred outside the press box elevator. Witnesses said Blum knocked over an unidentified woman, then was arrested by police officers as he tried to proceed onto the elevator.

He reportedly was told by the officers he would be charged with resisting arrest. . . .

Reds pitchers had registered 13 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play (since 1976) before tonight's first inning. . . . Cincinnati relievers entered Game 2 with a 0.44 ERA in the 1990 postseason. . . .

A's second baseman Willie Randolph became the fifth player to record World Series hits in three decades with a second-inning single in Game 1.