Just 16 tumultous hours in second place were too much for the New York Yankees and their owner, George Steinbrenner. Before his employes regained first place yesterday in Detroit, he confirmed he disagrees with his team's manager and that he isn't even talking to him anymore. Moreover, he said, some of the Yankees "should put up or shut up."

Then he promised to leave his team alone the rest of the season. Within hours, it was back in first place, thanks mainly to Tommy John's two-hitter, which beat the Tigers, 7-0.

John (11-4) faced 12 batters in the first four innings. The Tigers loaded the bases with none out in the fifth but he escaped on a line-drive out and a double play. He got 18 ground-ball outs in his first shutout this season.

Dan Pasqua, Rick Cerone, Gary Ward and Don Mattingly all homered for the Yankees, who had fallen from the lead Friday night.

Steinbrenner's tirade came in a news release passed out in Tiger Stadium's pressbox. He is especially angry that nobody answered when he telephoned Manager Lou Piniella in Cleveland Tuesday.

"The fact is," the news release said, "that Lou Piniella failed to be available to his boss at a pre-set time . . . I don't know of too many guys -- even sportswriters -- who, if their boss told them to be available for a call at a certain time, wouldn't be there. That type of behavior . . . won't be tolerated by the Yankees, either!"

And how does he feel about several Yankees saying that he should let Piniella run the team?

"That's okay with me. I've got enough other things to do. We'll just try it that way, and we'll see how well they do . . . They can put up or shut up. Maybe it's about time for it."

He said he and Piniella argued about trading Joe Niekro for Mark Salas, about putting Rickey Henderson on the disabled list and about whether catcher Joel Skinner should be in the minors.