Ploys, machinations, physical therapy, money, money, and money--the winter life of baseball as interpreted by five newspaper sportswriters from their old clip file. The idea here is to jump back and forth between the off-season (1984 in this case) goings-on at five major league clubs (The Philadephia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, California Angels, New York Mets and Cleveland Indians) to prove the baseball adage that ""You win the pennants over the winter and try not to lose them over the summer."" So we witness the Phillies wheeling and dealing (and ultimately spinning their wheels) in pursuit of trades that will ""help the club""; they seem, partly from bad luck, poor timing and some late-night over-indulging on the part of top executives, never able to close a deal. In Atlanta, the big question is Bob Homer's wrist and will he recover and play again (he does). From the Mets, what will Dwight Gooden's new contract cost? (A lot!) Will Gary Carter work out? (Yes!) From the Cleveland front office, will there be a Cleveland?. . .team, that is. And so on. What wasn't concluded by Opening Day is wrapped up in an Epilogue, which ironically shows that most of what occupied the minds of baseball-dom over the winter either fell through, didn't work out as expected, or on extremely rare occasions, clicked like a perfect double-play combination. Throughout, this reads like a primer on macroeconomics, with much talk--and some action--about megabuck player contracts, deferred compensation and performance clauses, and the like. (There's very little about club finances, however.) Talking about money matters restricts the book's starting players mostly to top executives, managers, and players' agents. Forget personal stuff about the players (Why we care about baseball). The major characters are faceless front-office types and this hot-stoveleague entry is told primarily from their point of view and, with one exception, sympathetically. Most interesting part? An alphabetical rundown of the Indians' 1985 payroll. Biggest flaw? We know already what resulted from every action taken, thus the suspense is apparently to be derived from seeing how the action came about. If you like reruns. . .A very routine fly ball. . .sure to be bobbled by all but the hardest core fan.