The Chicago Cubs' last visit to Anaheim began a march toward history

Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim / Stephen Dunn/GettyImages

On Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs began their series against the Los Angeles Angels in the midst of dire straits. Coming off a split in San Diego against a struggling Padres team and sitting at eight games below .500, they clearly need to get hot quickly to avoid another deadline sell-off. The return to Anaheim brings to mind memories of a much better time, however.

The last time the Northsiders came to Angel Stadium, it kicked off the greatest season in the franchise's history - 2016. They entered Anaheim with high hopes for the season after a better-than-expected 2015 run. With the core of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber among many more familiar faces plus pricey free agent addition Jason Heyward, it was their time. Immediately, they made their presence known.

Opening Day saw reigning Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta face off against Angels ace Garrett Richards who was coming off a solid 3.65 ERA season himself. They faced a tough assignment - although the Angels would finish 74-88 and miss the postseason, they certainly had threats. Mike Trout would win MVP in the American League and his supporting cast included noted Cubs killer Albert Pujols and big-time slugger C.J. Cron among others. None of that meant anything to the Northsiders who thumped the Halos with nine runs while Arrieta and the bullpen blanked the lineup.

The second game was another strong showing for the team as Rizzo and Dexter Fowler led the charge with a homer each. Paired with another bomb from Matt Szczur, they piled up another six runs, this time facing Andrew Heaney. Jon Lester, meanwhile, went seven innings with only one run to his name as the bullpen cleaned it up.

The Chicago Cubs showed it was their year in Anaheim

Although it was only a two-game series, the 2016 Cubs did exactly what made them a juggernaut team all year - they scored in bunches and pitched to near-perfection. They'd eventually end the season tied for third in wRC+ with a 106 mark and far and away the best team ERA and OAA at 3.15 and 40 respectively. From day one, it was clear they were a different caliber of team.

In their return to Anaheim, the expectations have definitely shifted. Still mired in its second lengthy rebuild in a decade, the team is built with pitching and defense in mind with an offense that's still a few pieces away from greatness. Gone are Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in favor of Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele with a new core of Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki, and Dansby Swanson. Still, the results have yet to show, and, following another heartbreaker in their first game with the Angels, it's getting late early for the 2023 Cubs.

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This team needs to work the magic and get the good vibes flowing again and it'll have to, once again, begin in Anaheim. At some point, more iconic Cubs moments and memories have to be made to get fans back on board and invested. It's nice to look back at all the fun 2016 brought, but changes have to come in the here and now to make this team relevant again.