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Reds end October among the roses

The Cincinnati Reds culminated their dream season with a White House tour Tuesday. They met President Bush, the First Lady and the First Dogs (Millie and Ranger). Bush called the team that beat Oakland in a four-game sweep the "newest Big Red Machine" in a Rose Garden ceremony.

"He knew a lot of us by name and shook our hands," rightfielder Paul O'Neill said of the president. "It has been the greatest week of my life."

Before accepting a gift jersey from the team's owner, Marge Schott, the president brought out the first family's dogs. Bush said Millie wanted to send her love to "the MVP, the Most Valuable Pooch," Schottzie, Schott's St. Bernard who didn't join the team on the trip.

Bush singled out the series' Most Valuable Player, pitcher Jose Rijo, who complied an earned-run average of 0.59 in winning two of the four games.

"Maybe you can help us with the interest rates," Bush told Rijo. "You get the ERA down, now it's the interest rates."

Besides singling out Rijo, Bush praised Eric Davis, who was among several players who were noticeably absent. Manager Lou Piniella tried to explain.

"(Rob) Dibble is in Japan and so is (Chris) Sabo. (Randy) Myers is probably in the hills up in Vancouver, Washington.

The manager dodged the Davis issue.

Davis, who ruptured a kidney in Game 4 of the Series, has been very vocal about what he considers Schott's lack of concern. Davis left Christ Hospital in Cincinnati on Tuesday to finish his recuperation at home. His wife, Sherrie, made the trip.

Around the majors

Cardinals: St. Louis has exercised its option on the contract of second baseman Jose Oquendo for next season for $800,000.

The Cardinals moved well before a Nov. 15 deadline to keep Oquendo, who set a major-league record for fewest errors in a season with three and his .996 fielding percentage was a National League record.

Free agents: Outfielder Fred Lynn and pitcher Dennis Rasmussen of San Diego and infielder Ken Phelps of Cleveland filed for free-agency, raising the total to 85.

The Indians last week decided not to exercise an option on Phelps for next season at $800,000 and instead gave him a $125,000 buyout. Players may file for free-agency through Sunday and may begin negotiating contracts with new clubs the following day.

Player Development Contract: Negotiators for the major leagues and the minor leagues met again in Washington in an attempt to agree to a new Player Development Contract, the deal that binds the majors and the minors.

"I'm encouraged by reports of considerable progress," said commissioner Fay Vincent. "There is a reasonable prospect of a deal in the next few days."

The negotiations had threatened to force creation of a new minor-league system for next season.