Newsday’s Neil Best reported yesterday the Yankees are steamed with the WWL over an alleged breach of protocol.

The Yankees have barred ESPN from news media conference calls with their managerial candidates this week. The move was in retaliation for the network violating rules covering last week’s call on which it was announced Joe Torre had turned down a contract offer.

Jason Zillo, the Yankees’ media relations director, said yesterday afternoon he told operators conducting calls with Joe Girardi Monday and Don Mattingly Tuesday not to accept ESPN as an affiliation.

He added the same policy would apply for yesterday’s Tony Peña call.

“If the only dialogue ESPN is going to give me is that, ‘We are going to do whatever we want to do,’ it leaves me with very few alternatives,” he said. “I don’t take any pride in stiff-arming people. That is not how I like to do business.”

ESPN angered Zillo last Thursday when it played the call with team executives live on ESPN2, violating ground rules that barred live coverage. He was further annoyed by an ESPN statement on the incident that appeared in Newsday and read:

“The most important thing to our fans was for us to provide this major sports news as it was breaking.” ESPN presumably meant sports fans, not fans of the network, but Zillo shot back:

“I don’t see many people walking around the streets with ESPN jerseys on their backs. I don’t know what fans they’re talking about.”

Clearly, Zillo hasn’t seen Stephen A. Smith’s new commercials for the ’07-08 NBA season.