George Steinbrenner fired Billy Martin because of concerns about Martin's drinking but mostly because he thought Martin had lost his skills as a manager, according to a club source.

The source, who spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Yankees owner thought "the team was out of control" under Martin and that the owner believed "it had to be done.""It was an irretrievable situation," the source said.

The Yankees have not issued an official explanation for Martin's firing Thursday. Steinbrenner, reached by telephone in Tampa, Fla., said he did not want to comment on Martin. General Manager Bob Quinn also said he preferred not to discuss the change in managers.

"I think any time a change is made it's done in the best interests of the club," Quinn said. "It's best that we let this whole thing die and let Lou (iniella) do his thing. You people (eporters) have well documented the whys and the wherefores of this whole thing."

The club source said Martin, 60, will return to his role as an adviser to Steinbrenner, though with a much lower profile and with much less authority. Martin rarely will be at Yankee Stadium. He likely will spend most of his time at his northern California home. He will attend some West Coast games and occasionally be called by Steinbrenner to offer an opinion on club matters. It is believed that Piniella, as one condition to his return as manager, insisted that Martin not be involved in the daily operation of the club.

Martin had resigned once and been fired three previous times as Yankee manager. But this was the first time Steinbrener dismissed him primarily because he found his managerial skills lacking.

Steinbrenner was known to be concerned about reports that Martin was drinking heavily. He was convinced Martin was drunk May 6 at Lace, the Arlington, Texas, topless bar where he was involved in a brawl, and in Baltimore June 2, the day he was suspended for throwing dirt at umpire Dale Scott.

But Steinbrenner was most disappointed with Martin's work on the field. Steinbrenner had called Martin's pitching staff "a shambles." Steinbrenner thought Martin "wasn't the same Billy Martin this time, especially after the Texas thing," according to the club source.

Quinn met Friday with the coaches who were dismissed with Martin - Art Fowler, Clete Boyer and George Mitterwald. They were offered minor roles within the organization. All of them chose to remain with the club. An announcement on what their duties will be is expected Monday.

Martin still could not be reached for comment Friday and Quinn said he did not speak with Martin, either. "I understand Billy is out of town," Quinn said. "I haven't the faintest idea where he is."